West Sussex County Council Leader - ‘We Need to Care more about Care’
The pandemic has cast a spotlight on many roles in our communities that had previously been in the shadows. As Covid-19 began to take hold, the vital importance of adult social care providers became clear.
Across West Sussex, residential and disability care services work around the clock to help people stay independent for as long as possible or regain independent living after medical treatment.
Adult social care is often associated with care homes, indeed in the county we have 231 residential homes, providing 8,450 beds for older people.
But adult social care is so much more and can give people in need a new lease of life.
Care covers a wide range of support, from long term care to a little extra help for a short time or making small adjustments at home to help with day to day tasks.
In the year before the pandemic began, more than 7,000 adults received a service in their home provided or commissioned by West Sussex County Council Adult Services.
The challenge we face at this time is that for many years we have seen a growing demand for services and rising costs.
The population of West Sussex is approximately 859,000 and has increased by eight point 6 per cent over the last ten years.
The population in West Sussex is projected to increase by a further eight per cent from 2018 to 2028 with larger increases projected in the 65+ age group (23 per cent plus) and notably in the 85+ age group (28 per cent), over the same ten year period.
The demand for care will continue to rise with our ageing population.
It is time to take stock and consider practical measures needed to meet the challenges being experienced in adult social care to provide services fit for the future.
Locally the leadership shown by Cabinet lead member Councillor Amanda Jupp, Executive Director of Adults & Health Keith Hinkley and our partners is making a positive difference here in West Sussex.
But there’s no doubt that, as well as local measures, this must be addressed at the highest levels and at the top of the political agenda.
As such, I have cautious optimism about the Government’s White Paper on Adult Social care announced last month and the proposals to address the shortfall in funding for health and social care.
But there are questions that need to be answered before we can fully understand the implications for West Sussex.
The first being about what happens while the proposals become fully formed.
There is a funding crisis happening now, causing stress to families today. Yet the proposals are not due to yield any substantial financial return until at least three years after they are set to begin in 2022/23.
The proposed £86,000 lifetime cap in care costs due to come in from October 7, 2023 also needs to be explored in more detail.
It is part of a fundamental change in the way people will pay for social care. There is the chance that the new system will help many families, especially the so called sandwich generation where adults are trying to care for elderly parents and also support their children in young adulthood.
The pressures are immense and some of the changes may make a big difference, for example by preventing the prospect of having to sell a family home to pay for a loved one’s essential care which will help keep families together for longer.
We all know friends and family who have sought out support for a loved one who needs additional care.
It is one of the biggest decisions of our lives and can be such a source of heartache along the way.
I’m working with fellow councillors and the council’s Adult Social Care team to find the best ways to make sure residents in West Sussex can access the help they need when they need it.
And we will engage with government to ensure their proposals support this aim.
At the heart of all the talk about services are real people with unique stories and lives.
At West Sussex County Council we are currently running a survey to find out what a good life means to residents.
The responses we receive will help us improve adult social care services. Please share your views before the deadline on Monday, November 8 so you can help us to shape the right support for the future.
Ultimately we are working towards helping residents live full lives for as long as possible and making sure the most vulnerable adults are cared for. I’m determined to do all I can to build a fair and equitable adult social care service that is available to all who need support, whatever their age or abilities.