Monday, 14 November 2011

The debt we owe to the war generation

Last week I led the Bankbench Debate on the future of adult social care. This is an issue that needs to be discussed.  Seven out of ten people think the NHS will pay for all their care in old age if they need it. For many families it comes as a great shock to discover that some types of support they need are not covered by the NHS and they have to pay for it.

Upon taking office the Coalition established a commission tasked with investigating the current system of caring from adults with disabilities and elderly people. The commission has now reported, and has described our current social care provisions as ‘not fit for purpose and in need of urgent and lasting reform’. I agree.

I was particularly pleased with the date that I was given by the Backbench Business Committee for this debate. The debate was held on the 10th November, on the eve of the day we remembered all those who have served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice. While the date marks Armistice Day of the First World War, with so few survivors of that war, our thoughts will increasingly turn to those who served in subsequent conflicts.

While I expect our thoughts and prayers most naturally go to those currently serving in conflicts around the world and most particularly in Afghanistan many of us will also be thinking of the survivors of the Second World War.
11.7 million people living in England survived the Second World War and now make up 22.5% of the population. A generation to whom we owe a great debt – that of our freedom and way of life as we enjoy it today. A generation who really understand what an age of austerity really means with rationing ending in the 1950s.

For those of us born after the war, it is our turn to respect those sacrifices and as they grow older we must take care of them.

Over the past 50 years we have enjoyed peace in most of Europe and despite the current situation, a growth in prosperity, but we have singularly failed to make preparations for the care of this generation. The welfare state was a great post war legacy. However there are gaps in funding in the main provisions - the NHS and Pensions - as increases in life expectancy have consistently been underestimated.

So it is essential that we make the lasting reforms now to the welfare state so it can deliver on the promise made to the generation that created it. I was pleased at the end of the debate that the Minister committed the Government to action with the introduction of a White Paper in April next year.

Locally, in am heartened that Cornwall Council and the local NHS are starting to integrate their services for elderly people and those with disabilities, and that both organisations are working with volunteers and families that have such a vital role to play in improving services. The leadership of Cornwall Council are to be applauded for their investment in adult social care as the majority of councils across England are cutting these most valuable services for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.

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