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Panorama lays down the care challenge for our next Prime Minister

For anyone aspiring to be the next Prime Minister, we and the Care and Support Alliance think today’s (29th May and 5th June) two-part BBC Panorama’s ‘Crisis in Care’ is essential viewing.

The first programme follows four families in Somerset who need care, and staff at their council who face impossible dilemmas over the allocation of inadequate resources to help them and many others, following years of austerity and rising demand.

We meet a mother of young children who is chronically ill with arthritis, for whom the key question is whether the council can afford to sustain her at home or whether, horrifically, the only option is a residential home, away from those she loves and who love her. And a man aged sixty with Downs Syndrome, cared for by his mother all his life, but she has now died and he is increasingly unwell. His family find a suitable care home but then there is stalemate as it costs more than the council feels it can afford.

We see families buckling under the strain of caring, with support whittled away as services close due to budget cuts. And we are prompted to consider what it must be like working in this environment – forced to reconcile a commitment to acting in people’s best interests with options that are patently inadequate but all the council has the money to pay for.   

This appalling situation, which is not just happening in Somerset but all around the country, will face the next Prime Minister, whoever they may be. Councils up and down the country are being left to carry the can – local fall guys for failed leadership on the part of central Government. Theresa May’s Government promised a Green Paper two years ago but has since delayed it an incredible seven times.

Meanwhile the Local Government Association has produced its own widely praised Green Paper and just this month we have seen three new policy reports from think tanks spanning Left and Right. All say much more investment is needed, plus some form of risk pooling across our society – a view the Care and Support Alliance shares. This emerging consensus among diverse opinion formers is potentially important.

A new Prime Minister needs to take note of these reports and do what their predecessors have failed to do: inject serious investment into adult social care, which faces a £3.6 billon funding gap by 2025 just to stand still, and develop a long term plan so today’s young people need not experience the misery evidenced in today’s Panorama if they come to need care.

It is within the gift of our new Prime Minister to put social care on the path to a sustainable future. The question for us is whether any of the candidates have what it takes to do so.           

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK and Oonagh Smyth, Executive Director of Strategy and Influence at Mencap are the newly formed co-chairs of the Care and Support Alliance and represent the three groups the alliance represents, carers, older people and working-age disabled adults.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) – is a coalition of more than 80 of the country’s leading charities who are calling for a properly funded care system.