As the general election looms, Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners Convention explains why all political parties should sign up to a manifesto calling for better care for older people.
There is little doubt that health is going to feature heavily in the run-up to the May general election, but too often the focus is just on hospitals, A&E and GP surgeries.
What needs to be added into that debate is social care. For decades this has been the Cinderella service of the welfare state. Overlooked and underfunded by successive governments, now the system is in crisis.
Anyone with a connection to the largely-privatised social care field knows the issues it faces: low pay, poor training, high turnover of staff, 15-minute flying visits, postcode lottery of charges, lack of regulation and variable standards.
At the heart of the problem is the false idea that medical care should be funded by general taxation and delivered through the NHS, while conditions such as dementia are not classed as medical and are therefore means-tested, leaving individuals and families to pick up the bill.
That’s why at the general election the National Pensioners Convention will be putting its pensioners’ manifesto before all the main candidates. One of the five key points in the manifesto calls for a national health and care service, funded through taxation that provides free care for people – whatever their condition and regardless of whether they receive that treatment in hospital or at home.
It’s affordable, it would be popular with the public and it would finally give older people the level of treatment they deserve.
Linked to this is the convention’s call for a legally- binding dignity code, which lays out how people should be treated when receiving care. It already has the support of political parties, professional bodies, trade unions and more than 40 local authorities, and it is having a real impact on the way older people receive treatment.
What makes this campaign different is the fact that, while it is led by older people, it is not just for their benefit.
In fact, the National Pensioners Convention has a proud history of bridging the gap between the generations.
That is because we recognise that what we achieve today benefits the pensioners of tomorrow.
Support from trade unions, such as the CSP, therefore helps build that important solidarity between the ages. After all, we’ll all be pensioners one day.
- Dot Gibson is general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC)
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