With increasing numbers of people with social care needs living longer, this actually represents a cut in services. And serviceshave already been slashed over the past couple of years, to such an extent that someone who is vulnerable but has only a ‘moderate’ risk of being abused is not entitled to any support from their local authority.
So what was the response from organisations that have been campaigning on social care? Most gave the ann-ouncement a warm welcome, while some suggested it was a great day for social care.
Besides Mencap, of the larger organisations, only the Local Government Association got it right, describing the review as ‘the worst settlement’ in a decade.
How did press offices and policy teams get it so wrong? I have got three explanations and I think all played some part. The information was simply too complex; the Government spun the story; and too many organisations are just being too nice. However you look at it, we did not do enough to hold the Government to account on behalf of vulnerable people who are being failed by the social care system.
Most NGOs aim, in their relationship with government, to be a ‘critical friend’. Are we being too friendly on social care, and not critical enough? Probably. The social care system is one of the biggest scandals in the system today but too much of the noise is being created by the media – especially Panorama, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Express – rather than generated by NGOs.
As a result, the story is focusing too much on issues surrounding inheritance and money and not enough on quality of care. Furthermore, as organisations we have failed to successfully politicise the issue. We are nowhere near a situation where MPs are having sleepless nights over social care.
We will only get to this position by really uniting on social care, and launching a campaign akin to Make Poverty History. It is easy to say this is virtually impossible on an issue such as social care, but we must try. Mencap and our Learning Disability Coalition partners are ready to give it a go. I hope others will join us.
Sam Heath (above) is press and PR manager at Mencap