Margot James welcomes the emphasis on dignity and respect in the Care and Support White Paper and urges better training for care workers and an end to contracting by the minute. She also welcomes the Government's commitment to providing better information.
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I will start my contribution with some points that I wanted to make earlier in the debate about the origin of the problems.
I accept that there are severe problems with adult social care. I do not know where the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) got her figures about the last Government’s record on adult social care spending, but according to local government figures, between 2004 and 2010, spending increased by 0.1%. Meanwhile, the population of over-65s grew by 7.7% and the number of over-80s by 11.6%.
Liz Kendall: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for being more generous with her time than perhaps I was. I got my figures from an independent assessment of Labour’s record in Government that was produced by the King’s Fund before the last general election.
Margot James: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for clarifying that. According to local government statistics, in the six years up to 2010, the spend was flat, and I have mentioned the demographic pressures. Interestingly, the same analysis states that over the same time, NHS expenditure rose by 27%, expenditure on the police rose by 20%, and even expenditure on schools rose by 12%.
A picture is emerging of the deprioritising of adult social care under the last Government. That is the origin of the problem that we are debating. That is what gave rise to the restrictions of the eligibility criteria for care. Long before this Government came to office, many local authorities started to restrict eligibility to those in moderate need of care and then to those in critical need of care.
Mr Anderson: Will the hon. Lady give way?
Margot James: I will give way one more time.
Mr Anderson: I appreciate it.
May I suggest that in criticising the last Government, the hon. Lady needs also to look at the record of the Government before that? Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the social care and health service budgets were drastically reduced to a degree that was an embarrassment to this country.
Margot James: I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s intervention, but I will move on to the present day, relevant though the NHS and social care budgets of 20 or 30 years ago no doubt are.
We are beset by problems, although I was pleased to hear the Minister confirm that according to ADASS, social care spending has gone down by just 1% in the past year. Given the incredibly difficult economic situation that we are in, much of which we inherited from the previous Government, that is an achievement. However, we do have problems.
People value their independence, and most older people want to stay in their own home. With the right support, many can. To a large extent, the White Paper proposals will provide the support that is needed to enable more people to stay at home. Carers are a vital source of people’s ability to maintain their independence at home, and the 5 million carers who do an incredibly important job in our country do not get enough support at the moment. I welcome the extra money that is being put towards enabling them to have respite, because carers tell me that a break is what they need first and foremost. I am sure that no amount of money would ever be enough to give them the breaks and support that they need, but at least the White Paper proposals will provide some support.
Many people do not realise that social care is means-tested until they get to the point in their lives at which they need it. That means that we need more information to be available. We need to be honest with people about what is possible, what is available and what is not. All Governments are guilty of putting the best picture forward, which is sometimes misleading. I applaud the Government’s decision to commit £32.5 million to improving information, but perhaps I can make a plea on behalf of some of my older constituents: that investment should not all be online. Many older people do not communicate in that way, so we must allow for some leaflets in GPs’ surgeries, libraries and day centres, and for other traditional forms of communication. Otherwise, we will make older people who do not engage with new media even more dependent on other people to get information for them.
Fiona Bruce: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Margot James: No, I promised not to take any more interventions, because I know other Members want to speak.
Then there is the dreaded assessment. Older people often try hard at their assessment to suggest that they can do more than they really can, especially when their carers are present. At the moment, assessments are conducted inconsistently not just around the country but within communities—it depends on who conducts them. I applaud the initiative to make them far more universal and consistent. The Dilnot proposal of making them portable around the country is certainly a huge step in the right direction.
As Members of all parties have indicated, the quality of care needs to improve. I welcome the emphasis on dignity and respect that runs through the White Paper. It is important that we have better training for care workers and an end, if possible, to the terrible business of contracting by the minute, which flies in the face of dignity. I quite agree with other hon. Members that it is impossible to get an elderly person out of bed and dressed in the amount of time that is allocated these days.
Dignity and respect are at the heart of a good-quality care system, and I am pleased that that has been given the prominence that it deserves in the White Paper. Of course we would like to do more, but I applaud the Government for making a very good start and, if I may say so to Opposition Members, they have done so within two and a half years of coming to office, which is a great improvement on the previous Government, who took 12 years before they got round to the same point.