A second inquiry in two months has issued a call for wholesale reform of the social care system without delivering a clear and urgent demand for an end to care charges.
Reimagining Care was commissioned by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and this week its report called for investment in communities, a stronger role for the state, a “new deal” for unpaid carers, and an “acceptance of our mutual responsibilities as citizens”.
It calls on the government to restore the level of local authority funding for social care to “at least the levels that would have been spent if funding had kept pace with inflation and changing demography over the past decade”, so more disabled and older people with “moderate needs” would receive care and support.
And it says the state should “define more clearly the rights and entitlements people can expect”.
But the report makes almost no mention of the demand from the disabled people’s movement for an end to all charges, even though research shows tens of thousands of disabled people every year are having debt collection action taken against them by their councils over unpaid charges.
The press release issued alongside the report makes no mention of care charges, and the report itself makes only a brief reference to charging.
Although it calls for an independent review of charges, the report suggests only that such a review should set out a timetable for reducing and “eventually” ending care charges.
It is now the second inquiry led by a Labour politician that has reported in the last two months and has all but ignored calls for an end to charging.
The Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care was co-chaired by Dr Anna Dixon, who is fighting a seat for Labour at the next general election.
Last month, the Lords adult social care committee – chaired by Labour peer Baroness [Kay] Andrews – focused heavily on the needs of unpaid carers and ignored the issue of care charging.
Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting has made it clear that the party will prioritise increasing the wages of care workers above the need to eliminate care charges, if it wins power at the next general election.
This week’s report also angered disabled activists by highlighting a segregated institution for disabled people – one of the Camphill “communities” – as an example of what “reimagined care” looks like.
And there was concern over some of the language in the report, including the statement: “Sin is a form of cognitive blindness.”
The commission appears to have carried out a certain level of consultation before writing its report, including a survey, discussions with the DPO Forum England, a series of round-table events, including one organised by Disability Rights UK (DR UK), and a meeting with the Church of England’s own Diocesan Disability Advisers’ Network.
Mark Harrison, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) Norfolk, who has played a leading role in drawing up plans for an end to care charging through a National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS), said: “The report is disappointing because they consulted disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) as part of the process.
“It is less reimagining, more tinkering around the edges.
“We all know social care is broken beyond repair and is a 20th century response to 21st century challenges.
“They rejected DPOs’ vision for a National Independent Living Support Service based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, in favour of protecting the profits of the private sector and keeping the tax on disability that is social care charging.
“What disabled people of all ages need is a right to independent living, a national independent living service funded through direct progressive taxation, free at the point of use and delivered through peer support and public not-for-profit organisations.”
Paula Peters, a member of DPAC’s national steering group, said the use of language in the report was “appalling”.
She said: “The Church of England is a rich institution which has no idea about social care and would be quite happy to put disabled people in institutions.
“Why are they not demanding the immediate end of care charging?
“The appalling levels of social care charging in England are pushing disabled people into further poverty, chased by local authorities for money disabled people simply haven’t got.”
But Fazilet Hadi, head of policy for DR UK, was more supportive of the report.
She said: “Disabled people are, for want of a better phrase, a broad church.
“The bulk of the report is overwhelmingly positive – a radical vision for the right to truly dignified care which is strongly seen as the right to a high quality life, not just basic washing, toileting, eating and drinking – life in all its fullness – robustly researched by allies who want to see a better world for disabled people.
“While some of us may object to the language used in places, and some of the points made, it would be detrimental to the national conversation on social care to focus on these aspects rather than the deep and pressing need for huge amounts of funding to completely transform a hideously failing system.”
Anna Severwright, a disabled member of the commission and a convenor of Social Care Future, said she could not speak for the commission but supported the report’s general findings.
Asked why the commission failed to call for an immediate end to care charges, a spokesperson for the Reimagining Care Commission pointed to remarks made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at the report’s launch.
He told the launch: “Before we think about how to fund social care, we need to step back and consider the nature and purpose of care and support.
“In other words what do we want to fund? What are the values which underpin care?
“How do we support one another to live well and participate in our communities, regardless of our age or ability?”
Asked about the language used in the report, including describing sin as a “form of cognitive blindness”, she said: “As you would expect from a commission tasked with looking at care and support, the draft was shared before it was published with a range of stakeholders with lived experience for their feedback on the content of the report.”
And she said the commission had seen examples “of all kinds of care”, with Esk Valley Camphill Community “one such of excellent practice which was selected for inclusion in the report”.
Picture: Stephen Cottrell, archbishop of York
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…