Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Guest Blog Mike Orton

Guest Blog: 

Choices on care will affect all our futures
Mike Orton

The demand for care for older people is growing rapidly and is placing enormous pressure on Council budgets. How councillors have responded to this says a lot about the nature of the political parties.
In childhood and youth, people rarely think about old age. As we see parents caring for our grandparents, we gradually begin to think about what care our parents and then ourselves might need. Today, more people are living for longer and for most, this means a fuller life. When the need for care does come, though, it often lasts for longer, is more complex and places greater demands on family carers.
Faced with these changing life patterns, I have believed for a long time that councils have a responsibility to make assistance and care readily available to all older people when they need for it. Care should be tailored to a person’s specific needs and choices. People should be helped to stay in their own home for as long as is practical when they want to. Care must be of a high quality, safe, friendly, and delivered in a way that respects a person’s dignity.  Carers must be given the support they so often desperately need. Councils should work in partnership with voluntary organisations but not use them as an excuse for cutting its own services. All this is what we are striving to achieve on Reading Borough Council within the context of massive cuts in Government funding, a fact which is well known and I am not focussing on this here. What I am saying, though, is that even within these national cuts, local councillors still have choice and can still determine their priorities.
Our budget for Adult Social Care for 2012/2013, which was approved on 21st February,  allocated £1.7million to allow for the expected increase in demand without cuts to services for vulnerable people or creating waiting lists for services. At the same time we are continuing to implement a major and continuous transformation programme which I initiated on behalf of the Labour Group in 2008. This aims to tailor services to peoples’ individual needs rather than only offering standard packages of care and enables people to live independent lives for much longer. Two examples of this are the reablement programme which provides intensive therapy to help people to continue to live independent lives, and the provision of new Extra Care Housing where people have their own home but support and care facilities are on site. Much of this work not only is improving the quality of care, it is providing services more cost effectively to allow us to stay within the budget available.
This approach was not true of the Coalition council last year. They put up charges for day centres to £43 a day and proposed to remove services from some people without knowing what the full implications were and. Labour stopped the 343 increase and protected vulnerable people as soon  as we formed a minority Administration in 2011.
Our approach is certainly not the same as that of the neighbouring Tory Councils of Wokingham and West Berkshire. They do not provide care to people until they are in critical need and they repeatedly cut the budget for care. The different choices made by Labour councillors and Tory councillors in what care they provide for elderly and other vulnerable people is chrystal clear for all to see.
Mike Orton
Lead councillor for Adult Social Care
Reading Borough Council

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