Cambridgeshire’s social care services have long been struggling. Carers are allowed only 15 minutes to help elderly people to get up in the morning, help them to wash and dress, prepare their breakfast and then do all the paperwork. This is risky for the elderly and stressful for the carers.
Poor social care provision also causes real problems in the NHS. Frail, elderly patients well enough for discharge have been waiting in Addenbrooke’s Hospital for weeks until care packages can be arranged. Their beds are not available for other patients so waiting times grow and people spend hours on trolleys in A&E. In England this winter, more than one in ten patients requiring emergency hospital admission is facing a long wait for a bed. Between 2010-11, when Labour left office, and 2015-16, there has been almost a five-fold increase in the number of patients waiting more than four hours for a hospital bed.
Instead of addressing this problem, central government funding for local services is being cut by 40% in this parliament.
When he was Chancellor, George Osborne gave councils the option to increase their Council Tax by an extra 2% to plug dangerous gaps in services — his so-called “social care precept.” When Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget was set last May, Labour proposed using the “social care precept” to relieve the strain on social care and other services. This would have reduced the risk to the most vulnerable in our community and congestion in the hospital system but Labour’s proposal was outvoted by Conservatives on the council.