So here it is, Merry Christmas, Boris is having fun! Today we expect to see the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed in the House of Commons – regardless of any resistance from the opposition, the Tories are in such a strong position with that huge majority, it is going to ‘sail’ through – and it is unlikely to be rejected as it progresses through the other stages too. So, we will be leaving on 31st January 2020 and we will be entering the transition period up to 31st December 2020. Maybe Boris will indeed “Get Brexit done” in one sense of the coined catchphrase but there is a long, long way to go. One thing is for sure, 2020 is going to be one of ‘pivot’ and change. Buckle up tight!

The Queen’s speech took place yesterday and it outlined a number of bills – 25 no less, the main focus of course on Brexit, commanding 7 of them and funding the NHS (which is still in real terms going to be underfunded may I add). Very little on social care yet again, it continues to be the poor relation in the Health and Social Care ‘family’. You would hope that the stronghold the Tories have means they can now really ‘bed in’ and bring about some political stability and make some impactful change. Following years of (self imposed) austerity it is time for investment and proper reform.

In social care, yes money and appropriate funding is critical, but so is real reform of the system. To me, it links to that old analogy “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”. There needs to be a strong, purposeful, new approach – let’s really look at commissioning, market shaping, how to really improve the lives of people who need support (including those who struggle to access any) and realise that throwing money at the NHS is not the answer – without a functioning, effective social care system, chucking money at the health service will be futile. The health service is much loved and vital we all agree, but it is a reactive service, how about some pro-active thinking. Let’s look at how to keep people healthier and at home, safe and supported to be a part of their own communities – that is the answer to reducing some pressure on the NHS and the way forward for social care.

The idea of a cross-party approach is good in theory but with the disarray within the Labour party I wonder how well this will work in practice – there’s too much division to make this work. And did some one say green paper? Not much mention of that either. So, I guess we will wait to see what happens next…

There remains much work to do, there’s no magic wand and disappointingly not much to indicate that the Tories see social care high on the priority list at the moment, reflecting on the narrative a week on from the election. BUT, let’s remember, it has only been a week…. As always we, and our colleagues within the sector will be bringing this to the forefront of conversations with policy makers and maybe, just maybe, the sector will get the focus, support and action it deserves… I am seeking some optimism here – it is nearly Christmas after all.

This is the last edition of Real People of 2019, thank you to our readers. May I also take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2020!

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director
20th December 2019