Elliot Colburn: This pandemic has shown the urgent need for social care reform

3 Feb

Elliot Colburn is the MP for Carshalton and Wallington

As we reflect on our shared experiences during the pandemic, it’s clear to me that one of the biggest lessons our party can learn from 2020 is that the time for addressing the issue of long-term social care reform is now.

As the party of government, I’m proud that we have acted swiftly to provide unprecedented economic support to businesses, but we all too familiar with the extremely difficult choices we have also had to make that have so impacted our everyday lives.

The Covid-19 pandemic has starkly revealed what we must improve in adult social care – a system which exists to enable hundreds of thousands of people living with dementia and other long-term conditions to live well. It has challenged our care homes to continue to provide quality care under huge pressure and has left our thousands of invaluable family and friend carers facing significant additional responsibility.

With the same vision and determination we have shown throughout this hugely difficult time, our next goal as a party must now be to drive forward an ambitious package of measures to comprehensively reform adult social care.

We must enable people affected by dementia and other users of adult social care to live in the way they wish, with a renewed focus on wellbeing and quality of life. With at least 70 per cent of care home residents having dementia, and 60 per cent of home care users, the approach we take to reform is going to have a disproportionate impact on the 850,000 Brits living with the condition.

The last ten months have demonstrated to all of us that health and social care are two sides of the same coin and that anything we do for one will have repercussions for the other.

Over the last decade, Conservatives have shown we are there for the NHS with above-inflation increases in NHS funding, providing vital support for our health service as demand grows. I am encouraged by the recent words of the Prime Minister when he spoke of his commitment to ending the crisis in social care for the long term, so I am optimistic that post-Covid we will see comparable funding and political focus on social care as the NHS with a social care long-term plan to match that of the NHS.

This comes not just from my time working in the NHS but, more personally, my late grandfather lived with dementia and I have heard from constituents and through my work with Alzheimer’s Society that dementia care costs can be devastating, and a lack of person-centred care can sometimes let vulnerable people with the condition down.

Our dedicated social care workers are doing their utmost to care for our vulnerable people in care homes and at home, and indeed we mustn’t forget the unsung heroes of the pandemic, which are those unpaid, often family, carers who have put in hours and hours to care for loved ones.

However many just have not been provided with the right training, the multi-disciplinary support, and kit to provide the person-centred care that is so vital for people with dementia.

Our NHS and social care colleagues are facing unprecedented pressure in my constituency of Carshalton and Wallington in south-west London and across the country. While we deal with the current challenges of the pandemic, we must also begin to set out a vision for how we will move forward and not return to the old, tried, tested and failed ways of working.

We have shown our Government can grasp the big issues. There is arguably none bigger than adult social care reform, and I look forward to a proposal coming forward soon.