Bins and council tax trump social care for Tories

Whereas Labour are still deciding their priorities, the Conservatives appear to have nailed theirs to the mast. And social care isn’t there.

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government began their conference by announcing that

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

£250m had been found which would be given to councils for weekly bin collections. Funding for social care comes from councils, and funding for local authorities comes from the Department of Communities and Local Government. So rather than giving this money to councils to spend on social care, the Government are saying it has to be spent on bin collections.

This Government, and Pickles in particular, has been adamant that decisions must be made at the local level, and councils given freedom to decide. Yet, Pickles is not making this £250m available for whatever councils think it could best be spent on; it is only available for councils who want to move to weekly bin collections.

Of course, some councils already run weekly bin collections, and a couple of councillors at the Conservative conference were left wondering whether they should stop that so that they can claim some of the £250m to reintroduce what they are already doing.

This was followed by George Osborne’s announcement that Government had found an extra £800m to give to councils who committed to freeze their council tax rates. Again, this newly found money is not available for councils to spend as they see best but can only be used to compensate councils who do not increase council tax rates.

Compare this focus on bins and council tax to social care. I asked Lord Freud (DWP Minister) and Greg Hands MP (Parliamentary assistant to George Osborne) about how important it was to implement the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations on social care but received no answers. I asked Maria Miller MP (Minister for Disabled People), who said meeting the challenge of our population’s changing demographics was one of our biggest, but instead of discussing Dilnot’s report, focussed on how introducing the right to request flexible working for all will help carers trying to juggle work and care.

Andrew Lansley in his speech did mention the £400m given to the NHS to support carers, but there was no mention of social care or Dilnot. When asked about it, no firm commitments were forthcoming. Understandably, Lansley is focussed on getting his Health Bill through Parliament but we must get the Conservatives to see social care as a priority.

Instead of commitment to reforming social care, there is a reticence emanating from Conservatives. It usually starts with talk of implementing Dilnot being very expensive and a lot of work still to be done. Implementing Dilnot is £1.7bn per annum; the Tories have just found, out of nowhere, £1.05bn for bins and council tax.

Take care


October 5, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives, David Cameron, Labour, Social Care | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Councils: Do your duty to parent carers

Parent carers of disabled children have often been treated slightly differently from other carers by health and social care.parent carer This can stem from local authority children’s’ services having responsibility for disabled children meaning adult services, responsible for carers, are often not involved in supporting the family. This can mean parents carers are not identified or receive support as carers.

The Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign has made huge strides in getting recognition for parent carers and local authorities now have a legal duty to consider the needs of parent carers and whether they would benefit from breaks from caring. This new legal duty came into force on 1st April 2011.

Now as everybody knows, 1st April is April Fools’ Day when people are tricked into believing something that is not real. Carers may feel that this happens all year round for them and this new legal duty is just another false promise.

But this new law may have real bite because local authorities must provide a range of services including:

  • day-time care in the homes of disabled children or elsewhere
  • overnight care in the homes of disabled children or elsewhere
  • educational or leisure activities for disabled children outside their homes
  • services available to assist carers in the evenings, weekends and during the school holidays

If your local authority is not providing any of these, then they are breaking the law. However, a few parent carers are saying that their local authority is refusing to assess their disabled child, which makes it harder for carers to get respite. EDCM have published a letter and a guide that parent carers can use to make sure their disabled child is assessed.

The Government are also putting pressure on local authorities by requesting they prepare a statement by 1st October 2011 setting out details of:

  • the range of respite services provided
  • any criteria by which eligibility for those services will be assessed
  • how the range of services is designed to meet the needs of carers in their area.

If you’re a parent carer, ask your council to see their statement and make sure they are doing their duty by you.

Take care and take charge


September 26, 2011 Posted by | Health, Relationships, Social Care | , , | 2 Comments

The Future of Health Care in England

I have changed Andrew Lansley’s mind on the NHS White Paper; single-handedly and with only one simple question. Devastating.

You may be asking how you have not read about this in the papers or heard it on the news, when this is obviously such mammoth news. Well, what I changed his mind on may not actually be so mammoth.

Andrew LansleyLansley proposes in the White Paper that local authorities will be able to commission Health Watch to provide information, advice and advocacy for patients regarding health care. Health Watch will replace Local Involvement Networks (LINks). No mention was made of local authorities being able to commission other organisations to do this.

I think that local authorities should be able to commission whoever they want and it may be other organisations are better placed in the community, and it may be more effective to fund more than one organisation to provide these services. So, this is what I asked him at a conference in July.

He said it was a good question and one he hadn’t thought about so he would.

At the Conservative conference, Andrew Lansley was at a reception we jointly hosted and I ended up speaking to him briefly. So I recounted our exchange in July and wondered if he had come to any thoughts on this. He said that yes and that they would be advising local authorities to commission whoever they thought was best placed to deliver information, advice and advocacy and that funding more than one organisations would give patients choice.

So, that was that – I had changed Government policy on the future of health care in England. I don’t think it’s one that will make Newsnight, but if it means that carers can get good information and advice because our Carers’ Centres and local Crossroads Care can get funding to provide this, then it will hopefully be at least a small positive.

Enjoy it while you can I guess


October 29, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Health, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Will the Law Commission’s new proposals change the lives of carers?

It’s probably not wise to announce this in public, but I’m probably going to break the law this weekend. I’m sure that at one point, I will jump into my girlfriend’s Ford Ka and end up doing 33 or 34 MPH when the legal speed limit is 30. But hey, everybody knows that whilst 30MPH is the law, you’re allowed to go 10% or so over the legal limit.

Gavel and balance scales

The Law Commission’s proposals will not change the lives of carers wholesale, but they will raise the bar of what local authorities must do.

The practice differs from the law and sometimes you cannot change behaviour by simply changing the law, but it is to the law that we often turn to first.

The Law Commission are proposing to merge various community care laws enacted since 1948 into one legal statute. But more than just amalgamating existing laws, they are also suggesting new ones.

Some of these could significantly impact upon carers such as withdrawing the need for carers to be providing substantial and regular care to trigger the local authority’s duty to assess if requested.

The Law Commission also propose a national eligibility framework for carers (although not services users). There are other important questions such as whether young carers should have the same rights as adult carers or whether the carer’s assessment should be merged with the community care assessment. And even the most fundamental question is up for grabs – should this new statute apply to England and Wales or just England?

The big question for carers is not any of the above though. It must be whether these legal changes will improve the practice of social services to make sure that carers are identified and assessed. But even if identification and assessment rates increase, there is no guarantee of increased support.

However, let’s go back to my speeding. Why is it that I do 33 and not 36? It’s because the legal limit is 30MPH and the leeway I give myself is based on that. If the limit was 35MPH, I would probably do 38MPH. The law does matter and it does influence behaviour even if we don’t always follow the letter of the law. The Law Commission’s proposals will not change the lives of carers wholesale, but they will raise the bar of what local authorities must do. That has to be a good thing.

Leave a comment here on my blog and I will send you a summary of the proposals – and it would be great to hear what people think. You can also take part in a short survey that will inform our response to the Law Commission:

The consultation closes 1st July:

Take care

May 26, 2010 Posted by | Law, Social Care | , , , , , | 7 Comments