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Access to Social Care

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 8 May 2018

1. What steps he is taking to improve access to social care for people living with unmet social care needs. (905157)

The health and social care systems are inextricably linked, which is why we need to improve access to the social care system, and we will be setting out plans to do so in a Green Paper.

Age UK says that 1.2 million older people have unmet social care needs. Is it not time that we thought about integration in a practical way, and where we have acute hospitals with land next to them, such as King George Hospital in my constituency, we start to build sheltered accommodation or intermediate care on those sites so that people can easily be transferred into and out of the beds, freeing them up for other people who need them?

That is a wise suggestion, and it is exactly the direction of our thinking in the social care Green Paper, which will have a significant chapter on housing. Integration is not just about integrating health and social care; it is also about other services offered by local authorities. I commend, too, the hon. Gentleman’s local authority of Redbridge: it is No. 1 in the country for user satisfaction with the social care system and No. 4 for carer satisfaction.

One of the most pressing issues for those who depend on social care is resolution of the back-pay issue for sleep-in shifts. Will the Secretary of State update the House with his own estimate of the liability? The independent sector puts this liability collectively at around £400 million. Will he also update us on the progress being made, because he will know that many sectors are handing back their contracts and withdrawing?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this serious issue, and I can reassure her that a lot of work has been going on inside the Government to work out how to resolve the issue. A court case is due that may have a material impact on those numbers, but we are continuing to work very hard and fully understand the fragility of the current market situation.

In December, the health survey for England revealed that older people in more deprived areas are twice as likely as average to have unmet social care needs. Is this not yet another example of Tory cuts reducing councils’ abilities to meet the requirements of people with care needs?

I welcome the question, but let me also gently tell the hon. Lady what the actual story is with respect to cuts. Yes, the social care budget was cut after the 2008 financial recession, but she may remember that a different party was in power when that happened. Under this Prime Minister, those cuts have been reversed and the social care budget is going up by £9.4 billion in this spending review period.

Inadequate social and primary care provision lies at the root of a great deal of pressure on hospital A&Es, so we need to plan much better for the demand for services at that level. Will the Secretary of State press the Treasury to ensure that receipts from NHS property transactions are retained by local healthcare trusts, so that they can build much larger primary care facilities than those currently planned?

My hon. Friend makes an important point: unless we make it easier for trusts to retain the receipts of property transactions, they will be likely to sit on these properties and we will not get the positive ideas such as that suggested earlier by the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes), so we do need to find a way to make sure that local areas benefit when they do these deals.

The Alzheimer’s Society estimates that at least 10,000 people with dementia have been stuck in hospital in the last year despite being ready to leave, and many of the delays were caused by a lack of care in the community for them. There can be no more disorientating thing for a person with dementia than being stuck in hospital when they do not need to be there. So with dementia awareness week approaching, is it not time for the Secretary of State to meet the social care needs of people with dementia fully by meeting the funding gap for social care in this Parliament?

Let me explain what is happening on that front. In the first five years after 2010, social care funding went down by 1.3% a year—we had a terrible financial crisis that we were trying to deal with—but since then, in the current spending review period, it is going up by 2.2% a year, which is an 8% real-terms increase over this spending review period. I completely agree with the hon. Lady that we need to do a much better job. [Interruption.] Opposition Members talk from a sedentary position about priorities; our priority has been to get this economy on its feet so that we can put more money into the NHS and social care system, and that is what will continue to happen under a Conservative Government.