Can the Conservatives find a “new normal” for carers?

Conservative Leader, David Cameron

Conservative Leader, David Cameron

When Labour won the election in 1997, some said that New Labour was Old Conservative. What they meant by this was that the “new normal” in politics was one that had shifted toward Conservative and away from Labour.

It was an attendee at one of our fringe events who uttered this “finding the new normal” phrase and everybody left rather taken with it. It got me thinking about what could be the new normal for carers or indeed if carers had ever experienced a new normal.

I guess the reality is that for some carers, things have improved – some PCTs are increasing support for carers, and the Caring with Confidence programme has made it easier to manage their caring role. Take a carer from 1979 and transport them to 2009; would they say things have improved for carers? And for others, despite the strategies and announcements, they don’t feel that anything has changed in their life at all.

I’ve been at the Tory conference for a week but I’m still not sure if the Conservatives could create a new normal for carers. The Conservative work programme launched last Monday does not mention carers so we’ve planned a meeting to discuss this with them. Their big social care announcement focused on residential care only, although we are promised more policies on social care before Christmas. Health bodies should be accountable to local communities, but it is not wholly clear how this would operate.

The election is looming so it is important that we make parties clarify what they will do, rather than accept broad announcements. Sometimes it’s the small things that make the difference.

But at our event this week, Stephen O’Brien did give more information on the new residential care policy. They calculate that the average cost of residential fees is £52,000, which covers two years. Five people paying £8,000 = £40,000 but the Conservatives expect this £40,000 to accrue interest between the time of payment and when it is needed to pay for residential care (eg pay at aged 65, but might not need residential care until 75) to cover the cost of one person in five needing residential care. Is this 1 in 5 figure right? And is the expectation of accruing such interest reasonable?

Conferences are strange places where people desperately try to network with other people in an frenzy of insincerity. Gossip replaces debate; lobbyists, like me, push their message as the one big issue; and bizarrely it all happens away from the main conference hall in corridors and side rooms. The conference parties are over and now that we’re all back to the office, the real work begins. We had meetings with the three main parties’ health teams; spoke to policy advisers and researchers and held debates about supporting carers and the issues of personal budgets. This is undoubtedly important and vital for our cause, but I can be honest and tell you that I’m glad to be back to normal.

Take care



October 12, 2009 Posted by | Conservatives, Party Conferences | , , , | 1 Comment