In partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability, Independent Age held a private roundtable dinner discussion on social care at this year’s Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. ARC was invited to participate and Peter Jung, Chair of ARC UK attended on behalf of ARC members.

The event, entitled ‘The challenges facing Health and Social Care – is a Commission the answer?’ was attended by a broad section of interested parties and asked whether a cross-party Commission to review the future of health and social care could be the right response to the current challenges facing our sector. Keynote contributions came from Janet Morrison, CEO of Independent Age, Peter Jenkins, Managing Director for External Affairs, Leonard Cheshire as well as Meg Hillier and Emma Lewell-Buck who are both Members of Parliament. David Brindle, Public Services Editor for The Guardian newspaper, ably chaired proceedings and his assured approach and understated depth of knowledge kept the debate both lively and constructive.

There was a recognition that every aspect of adult social care, including the NHS, Social Work Services and third sector provision, face significant and ever mounting challenges to meet the growing demand for support across the UK. There was also a consensus in the room that social care is approaching the brink of collapse with pressure not only on budgets but also on recruitment and retention which has suffered as staff leave social care altogether to pursue what might be regarded as easier career options, particularly in retail.

There was an agreement that doing nothing is not an option. The current pressure on the NHS meant it could no longer cope and although the third sector would ordinarily be an obvious partner in relieving some of this pressure, it is struggling with its own financial and recruitment issues which has depleted it ability to respond. Meg Hillier captured the need for urgent action by describing the requirement being a ‘paradigm shift’ in how social care is delivered.

Given the dire prognosis, the somewhat reluctant conclusion for many at the event was that a Cross Party Commission would not be the solution as it would not be able to deliver the immediate help this sector needs.

Peter Jung
Chair, ARC UK