Opinion: ‘Social care reform is long overdue’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 22nd May 2021, 5:05 am
Adult social care reform is overdue.

As readers may know, I sit on the Health and Social Care Committee.

This week we took evidence from Jonathan Freeman

Sadly, his mother, Gillian, died in January, after suffering for many years with dementia.

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His answers to my questions were powerful and worrying. The death of a parent is upsetting in any circumstances.

Unfortunately, it was made far worse for his family because of the difficulty in securing the right care for Gillian – or any financial support.

It took Mr Freeman two years to persuade her GP that there was a problem. When advanced dementia was properly diagnosed, he got his mother into a care home.

That care home made mistakes and lacked support for her dementia. He had to move her again.

The new home was much better.

They encouraged him to apply for funded nursing care to meet his mother’s specific needs.

A month of rental income from her house was paying for less than a week of her care. Carefully acquired savings were being rapidly depleted.

To get the assessment, Mr Freeman told me: “You wouldn’t believe how much nagging [was needed] and the delays we had.”

But he got there and was told his mother qualified. The assessor even told him that her funding would be backdated.

The assessor left. Six months passed. He pushed for answers.

“The assessor had registered the claim on the computer but never filed the paperwork.”

He was assured it would all be sorted out.

Instead, the CCG secretly commissioned a peer-review on the assessment.

Someone who had never met his mother concluded she should get nothing.

“They wouldn’t tell me the reasons for that. They didn’t even tell me there was that panel.”

He appealed.

They refused.

No reasons were given.

He told me: “I was a senior civil servant. I understand bureaucracies. But this was Kafkaesque.”

Her illness progressed. He didn’t want to go through that ridiculous process again, at least until he was certain it would succeed. By this stage she was immobile and unable to eat by herself or communicate.

So he applied and after further delay: “Everyone agreed with all of the assessments apart from one – mobility.”

The CCG’s assessor argued that the wrong hoist had been used, but assured him that it wouldn’t be used as an excuse.

It was.

He appealed.

They refused.

No reasons were given.

Mr Freeman had to sell his mother’s house to pay for her care.

She was denied access to a Continuing Healthcare package despite the clear view of three expert assessors. She died without receiving a penny.

“It was very clear” to him that the CCG seized “any possible excuse not to provide mum with the financial support that was her right”.

The CCG doesn’t even monitor its performance for meeting the statutory criteria for appeals. It took an FOI request for the CCG to admit this fact.

None of this happened in Peterborough, but all of it demonstrates the need to reform how social care funding is provided.

The Queen’s Speech committed the government to bringing forward proposals this year.

There is scepticism in Westminster about that, given the failure of successive governments, of all shades, over many years.

I will continue to give this government the benefit of the doubt. There is no question, however, that reform is overdue.