Last week in Parliament I led the debate about how together we are going to ensure that Britain is a good place to grow old in.
One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century was a significant increase in life expectancy. The challenge for the 21st century is to address the consequences of this increase, to re-design the way we care for elderly people, or adults living with chronic illnesses and disability, so they can live as full a life as possible.
Let’s be honest – if we were designing services to support families caring for their elderly and disabled family members - would we have designed the system we have today? Despite the undoubted good intentions of previous parliaments, our system has developed in fits and starts, since the 1920s- it is disjointed and does not deliver the joined-up help for the cared for or the carers. It can be utterly frustrating for care and health professionals.
It has been estimated a total of £145 billion a year of public money is spent on the elderly in social care, the NHS and welfare payments - that is £3,000 for every man, women and child in this country. It does not feel to me like elderly people and their carers are receiving the quality of services and care that such a sum could provide if were spent differently -more effectively.
Growing old or living with an illness and disability is frightening for too many people today. Frightening for the people that love them too. There is fear about the quality of care they will receive from the NHS and social services and fear about if they will have to pay and how will they afford it.
We need to alleviate as much of this fear as possible by creating services and ways of paying for them that are fair and easily understood by people of all ages and that deliver high quality care and support to carers. Services in which those that are employed feel respected and appreciated.
To achieve this requires a vision and a plan that everyone understands. A plan that is fair. A route from where we are today to where we want to be. It then requires all political parties over a period of time to implement it. This will deliver the lasting, consistent and sustainable reform that, despite many good intentions, has eluded all Governments for many years.
I believe the Government has recognised the challenge and has taken a number of steps forward; there is a pledge in the Coalition Agreement to reform care services and funding. Delivering this will very much depend on the determination of the Opposition to work constructively with the Government.
While a longer term solution is found to the current issues, more public money is being given to the NHS and councils to work together to deliver joined-up services for people and their carers. In 2012-2013 our local NHS is getting £ 941.8 million, a cash increase on last year of £25.7m, and Cornwall Council Adult Social Care and Support is benefiting from an additional £7.5 million of funding.