How do you imagine the Golden Years of your life to be?
Sitting on a porch in the sun, listening to the birds singing while you sip tea reminiscing on days gone by?
Or for the more adventurous, how about a cruise around Antarctica in search of the Emperor Penguin?
We all have different visions of what the most venerable and vulnerable years of our life will be like.
Regardless of what’s on our bucket list, the one thing we all hope for is a comfortable and peaceful period of our lives where we can still live with dignity. It’s hard to imagine anything else, isn’t it?
For professionals in the social care sector, forecasting what the quality of life will be like, for many of us, as we approach old age is far less sanguine.
There is no doubt that we are an ageing population. Those of us living to a “very old age” will continue to grow over the next twenty years as will our need to rely on trained care professionals to enable us to live our lives with some relative independence.
(According to Public Health Wales, the number of aged 85 or over will reach 184,000 by 2036 – up 145% since 2011.)
Yet despite the demand for adult social care increasing exponentially, the current forecast is that we will not have enough trained professionals to care for us all.
Providers are already exiting the sector.
In 2018 we saw the demise of national organization Allied Health Care in Cardiff, and they are not alone. We have just seen major player in the industry Four Seasons go into administration with a job loss of 20,000.
Read the article here on the BBC website https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48102859
It is not only Home care funding which is falling, The number of care homes in Wales fell from 684 in March 2013 to 643 in March 2018; the number of beds fell from 23050 to 22466 over the same period according to CIW annual reports for those years.
Continued underfunding by adult social services will leave vulnerable citizens without the vital support they will need, as many care providers will fail due to financial instability.
It could be argued that the social care sector has always been the “Cinderella” service compared to the NHS. However, this situation, already at crisis point, has been compounded by changes in legislation brought in by the Welsh Assembly Government leaving providers to carry the cost.
Most of us would agree that changes in legislation at National Government levels such as that of National Minimum Wage (NMW) and Auto-enrolment pensions, is fundamentally a good thing.
These changes do however increase costs for businesses and unfortunately, fee setting by Cardiff Adult Social Services has failed to meet increased costs placed on Providers of social care.
Cardiff Adult Services, between 2015-2018, increased hourly fees by about £1.13, whilst provider costs based solely on basic NMW+NI, Holiday pay, Auto enrolment pension and travel time have increased in the same period by about £2.45 per hour.
This shortfall in funding of £1.32 per hour excludes the increase in CPI and is based solely on the NMW, so excludes the protection of pay differentials for office-based staff and Senior Care staff and ignores the actual cost many companies have tried to absorb who pay staff in excess of the NMW.
Furthermore, The Welsh Assembly Government, quite rightly, is driving an agenda to professionalise the Social Care workforce through registration that will require all working in the sector to achieve academic qualifications. Domiciliary workforce registration is planned for April 2020. Whilst funding is available to support the achievement of the qualification addressing the estimated cost to the employer of £2,500 per employ time whilst studying has not been meet.
Social Care Providers cannot continue to absorb cost increases if they are to survive, let alone deliver, a caring, professional service to some of our most vulnerable citizens.
This problem will not just affect social care services directly. It will also have a knock-on effect to NHS services in Wales as there will be additional delays in transfers from Hospitals to community/Care at Home due to the underfunding of Social Care in Wales, leaving people in expensive hospital beds for longer than necessary.
The underfunding is leaving vulnerable people at risk and the Welsh NHS in an increasingly challenging position.
Perhaps the most significant realisation we need to take away from this situation is that whilst these issues are impacting on our ability to care for the elderly today, the concern is greater for those of us who are in our fifties right now. They are the vulnerable of the bleak future we are describing.
Social Care can no longer be treated as the Cinderella Service whilst Welsh NHS receives ever increased funding. If funding of Social Care is not increased, the Welsh Assembly Government will fail to meet the objectives of the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014 meaning there will no golden horizon for many of us.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ENSURE YOU HAVE A GOLDEN AGE?
We can all play our part in changing this situation by contact our Assembly Members and local Councilors, requesting that funding is increased to meet Provider costs placed on them by legislation.
Minister for Health and Social Services
Vaughan Gethin: Correspondence.Vaughan.Gething@gov.wales
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
Julie Morgan: Correspondence.Julie.Morgan@gov.wales
Contact your Assembly Member http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgMemberIndex.aspx
Cardiff Councillors http://cardiff.moderngov.co.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1