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By Debbie le Quesne

How the Government is saving £132bn on care

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No-one these days appears to be arguing that carers should not be paid more for the invaluable work they do. The exchanges are more about where the funding will emerge to reward this valuable social asset.

As head of the West Midlands Care Association, I’ve campaigned with many others for the Government to throw a lifeline to the industry. I am aware good care saves our nation an absolute fortune.

Our media man has some great carers for his ailing wife on a direct payments arrangement. The care is so good nursing calls have been reduced form an average of 4.3 x2 visits per week, averaging eight hours of clinical time, to 1 x1 every three months for a catheter change.

Saving to the NHS in this single case are awesome. Do you know the majority of care for ill, older and disabled people is provided not by doctors, nurses or care workers but by family and friends. More people are caring for a loved one than ever before, with one in eight people providing unpaid care to loved ones. From taking a partner with an illness to hospital appointments, to helping a disabled sibling with washing and dressing, to caring full time for an elderly parent, we are, increasingly, a nation of carers.

New Carers UK figures show that this help is worth £132bn per year – more than double its value in 2001.  This figure is calculated by adding up all of the care provided by carers and working out the cost of the state providing the same amount of support.  And this unprecedented figure of £132bn – more than the value of HSBC Holdings, or Visa plc – does not appear to reflect nursing costs.

The outpouring of caring is indeed something to be proud of, but I’m equally appalled that such a huge burden is placed on so many without any professional, paid carers on the scene. For some, that will be a choice. For the majority, I fear, it’s because the bar is now too high for them to warrant a funded care package.

The figure is confetti money – the cost of a second NHS service. So, what is driving the increase in the value of care? Demographic change now means means that the numbers of those in need of care and support is beginning to exceed the numbers of working age family members able to provide it.  But more critically is the fact that cuts to social security and local care services means people are receiving less support. It’s ticking time bomb, I fear, for surely this amount of ‘unofficial’ caring cannot be sustained indefinitely without some major support.

One wonders how long it will be before the carers crumble and their charges are, by default, neglected. I know of family carers who are struggling to make ends meet financially. Ordinary people, fighting to balance their domestic books, they are desperate for social services’ funding, but the pool of money to fund such intervention has evaporated.

Government has broken too many promises on the care issue to mention, but I will bring your attention to the hypocrisy of David Cameron. Did you know he protested about frontline cuts to public services suggested by his own Conservative local council?

A leaked letter shows Cameron chastised Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, for considering cuts to elderly day centres and other services. ‘Not in my back yard,’ springs to mind.

A whopping £132bn . . . the yield for zero investment. It surely doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envisage more savings longterm if monies could be poured in to social care to fund a more professional approach. Goodness knows, those heroic and stoic people who care for their loved-ones out of a seemingly endless pool of compassion and love deserve it!

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