As we enter 2013, the many issues that come with an ageing population have never been more centre stage. Keeping with the theatrical theme, even the film industry is getting in on the act with Dustin Hoffman making his directorial debut at the age of 75 with “Quartet”, a film about four friends who reside at home for retired opera singers.
The draft Care and Support Bill published in July 2012 proposes a single, modern law for adult care and support that replaces existing outdated and complex legislation. Comments were requested by the Government by 19 October and a summary of responses was published just before Christmas. The Joint Committee on the Draft Care and Support Bill has already begun to take evidence from experts and has invited written submissions by 11 January as part of this work.
In yesterday’s report by think-tank Centre Forum, Paul Burstow sets out some ideas of how the funding of future care could be achieved by linking winter fuel payments with Pension Credit, reducing the number of recipients from over 12 million to around 3 million, saving £1.5 billion annually. The idea is welcomed by some, but criticised by others and is likely to be controversial. But it does set down an early marker for the ensuing comprehensive spending review that will begin shortly.
In December local clinicians were given the green light to take control of the NHS budget in 34 areas of England shaping the way in which care is delivered for millions of older people in the coming months and years.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change hold their final evidence session on 9 January, where they will put the questions that have emerged over the course of their inquiry to Ministers Jeremy Hunt MP, Norman Lamb MP and Steve Webb MP. WRVS has been one of a number of organisations that have given oral evidence at hearings over the past few months. The inquiry is the first by Parliament to assess if our society, policies and public services are really ready for the ageing population. The evidence that the Committee has received so far suggests that we are worryingly underprepared.
The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in his final New Year Message centred on the crucial role of volunteers. He said that anyone who had seen the London Games “will have been made aware of the army of volunteers who cheerfully gave up their free time and worked away, without complaint, all hours of the day and night to make these great events happen. They were the key people who translated the Olympic vision into reality for the rest of us.” He recognised that similar acts are happening in many other communities around the country in far less glamorous circumstances. But he also asked the tougher question: what can we all do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication?
It is clear that urgent action is required by Government to put in place the adult social care framework that older people deserve and that will be necessary to meet the demands of the 21st century. It has also become clear that Government cannot do this alone.
Earlier this week building on the comments made by Williams, social care minister Norman Lamb said that friends, family and neighbours should all do more to prevent older people going into care unnecessarily. Just before Christmas it was announced that volunteers will soon benefit from a free service which will allow them to re-use criminal records checks time and time again. The move to cut red-tape and reduce the burden on those who give up their time to work with older people is a welcome step. The many tens of thousands that give up their time on a regular basis with WRVS and other organisations to help in their local communities are an essential part of the solution. So not only do we need a new legal framework, but also to devise new and innovative ways to encourage more people, especially those reaching retirement, to continue to contribute. At the same time movement to ensure cooperation and coordination between organisations and authorities is necessary, if we are to be in better shape at the end of 2013.