Now that the major parties believe "there is no money," they will have to come up with ways to help families provide vital servicesby Emran Mian / January 15, 2015 / Leave a comment
This is by most counts the second week of the general election campaign. The ground should be strewn with politicians’ promises. Yet yesterday the Chancellor gave a major speech at the Royal Economic Society in a different mode—the mode of aspiration rather than promise. He sketched a low inflation, high employment future in which the UK rises to be the richest country in the world; 70 Virgin channels, rivers of cheap milk and oil for every believer who joins him at the end of history.
It’s tempting and there are good reasons to be bullish about the UK’s economic prospects. But what about social policy, adapting to the demands of an older population, mending the damage of austerity? Of course there’s still no money, say all three major parties. This limits the scope for promises in a different way. So it was interesting on the same day as the Chancellor’s speech to hear ideas for how social aims can be met in this environment from an unlikely collaborator, Liz Kendall, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Care and Older People.
What she set out wasn’t a promise of new funding for social care nor a pledge for the reform of services. Instead she observed that there are over 5m people providing informal social care—looking after elderly and disabled relatives. Around a quarter of those are caring for more than 50 hours per week. What she promised was merely this: that the NHS would provide these carers with a single professional point of contact and an annual health check. You do something for us, we’ll do something for you. These policies are designed to achieve the coordination of the family’s responsibilities with the government’s, combining the private and public in what Kendall and others in the Labour Party have been calling a relational state.