As most MPs headed off last Thursday to elections in their area, with no contests in High Peak this May, I was asked to lead a 90 minute debate in Parliament.
I chose to speak about Social Care, on which several constituents and GP surgeries have contacted me with serious concerns.
Social Care – the care for the elderly and adults with disabilities – is the responsibility of County Councils. Most people who need care are visited in their own home by carers, usually with family members assisting. Some who need a higher level of support, or who do not have family or close friends able to help out, need residential care in a home.
Social care usually accounts for over half of County Councils’ spending, so the huge cuts of over 60% of Derbyshire’s funding over the last 8 years have meant a growing gap between what the Council can afford, and what it costs to provide professional care.
Most care at home in High Peak is provided by agencies based in Stockport, Glossop or Buxton. In recent months, these companies have refused to travel outside of these core areas as they cannot afford extra travel time and costs when they are only paid for a care visit of usually around 30 minutes.
This means people in the areas further from the agencies are not getting the help they need. One care co-ordinator in New Mills told me they now have 19 people waiting to receive care. That may mean the patient and their family struggling at home without the support they need. Or an elderly person is unable to leave hospital.
One elderly lady who was terminally ill desperately wanted to spend her final days at home with her husband, who struggled to visit her at Stepping Hill, but carers could not be found. By chance the local District Nurses were able to manage their workload that week to help her come home, but that’s not always possible.
To me, the £6 billion cuts to social care in recent years don’t make sense – not only is it cruel that people who need care have to suffer, but the lack of social are creates more work for our hard-pressed NHS and takes up hospital beds.
A whole series of care companies have become insolvent or given up care work due to the cuts, and there is a national shortage of care staff. They are among the lowest paid, but their work is both physically and emotionally demanding. No wonder local job centres have lots of vacancies.
My message to the Health Minister last week was that social care and care staff need proper investment before their cuts not only cause suffering but cost our health service far more.
I’m pleased that the Minister acknowledged that more funding is needed. But it needs to happen soon before more people, especially those in rural areas like High Peak, suffer even more.