Something like £1billion emergency funding is needed to prevent a crisis in social care funding in the UK. In anyone’s books that’s a lot of money. Our share of that bill in Northern Ireland will run into eye-watering millions, perhaps dwarfing the ultimate bill for the RHI debacle. The overall figure was released days after David Mowat, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to the Department of Health, declared that parents have as much of a responsibility to care for their elderly parents as they do for their own children.
Mr Mowat told a local government select committee this week that a way would have to be found to deal with the increasing demand for social care services. He went so far as to suggest that Britain should follow the example of other nations where three generations can often be found living under the same roof. The Minister obviously hasn’t a clue how small the average British home is. Where I live many new builds don’t even have room to swing a cat in the garden never mind inside.
Sadly, as I have often suggested in this column in the past, a Government that wants everyone in work, including mothers on whom the burden of elderly parent care often falls, cannot have it both ways. The average working family today simply couldn’t cope with an elderly parent/s with all the medical conditions afflicting them. In saying that I know of many who are trying having been told by social services it would take months for them to even look at their case.
I was blessed to be a member of a large family and when my mother needed 24-hour care in the family home we were able to provide it. Social services could offer very little in the way of time though we were grateful for anything from them. By the time she died we were all worn out, suffering mainly from lack of sleep.
We have just two children and never in a million years could I imagine our sons, who don’t even live in this country, looking after us. It simply won’t happen so preparation for our future care has to begin now. In some respects I’m pleased our children do not have responsibility for our care even now. How could they put up with us, the dog, cats, big garden and their father’s passion for boats and the sea? They do keep in touch, always wanting to know what we’ve been getting up to. We only tell them of the good bits. We like our privacy and that’s something my mother had to sacrifice when, through infirmity, she had no choice but to have us walking in on her at all times of the day. I’ve known her to pretend to be asleep when one of us arrived. How fed up she must have been with the hand nature dealt her.
David Mowat says, as parents, we never think that we shouldn’t look after our children and we should apply this kind of thinking towards our parents. This week many of us will have watched the television documentary from the BBC about the elderly American man dumped in the UK by his family. Don’t for one moment think that that couldn’t happen here. A society which can heartlessly dump a pet dog or a cat along a roadside – a regular occurrence here – would probably not think twice about shoving a parent into a home so that they can continue their lives unhindered.
Social care has to be treated as a national priority and at least one council in the south of England has suggested raising local taxes to pay for it, a perfectly feasible idea but how long would it be before a Government would raid such local extra revenue for purposes other than social care?