Without sustainable funding the most significant piece of social care legislation for decades is at risk of becoming a wasted opportunity, warns Alzheimer's Society.
As the Care Act comes into force today (Wednesday 1 April 2015), the charity is urging all political parties to commit sufficient funding to turn its provisions into a reality. They warn that playing party politics with the lives of the most vulnerable in society will fundamentally undermine this progressive legislation.
The Care Act (2014) has the potential to bring major improvements to the social care system. For the first time people will have the right to advocacy if they would not otherwise be able to participate in the assessment and care planning process, carers have strengthened rights to assessment and support services and local authorities will have to provide universal services that prevent and delay the onset or worsening of needs.
George McNamara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer's Society, said:
'Our social care system is on the brink of crisis. All political parties must commit to funding the social care black hole or risk letting down the most vulnerable in society – they must not become scapegoats by politicians in the pursuit of populist votes. Failure to do so will only result in higher costs to the NHS.
'The human and economic impact of dementia is truly staggering. It costs the UK in excess of £26 billion a year, which equates to £30,000 per person with dementia every year. Most striking of all is that people with dementia, their carers and families shoulder two-thirds of this cost themselves. In this country we have an army of unpaid carers – wives, husbands, daughters and sons – holding up a social care system on its knees. If you have cancer or heart disease you can quite rightly expect that the care you need will be free on the NHS, but this just isn't the case for people with dementia who often require basic care in the community.
'While the reforms in the Care Act are a step in the right direction, unless properly funded they will still not help the vast majority of people and do nothing to alleviate the enormous burden on unpaid carers. The failure of successive governments to invest in resources to help our most vulnerable is seen in the strain put on families, and these changes don't do enough to change that.'
This comes as a coalition of more than 75 of the country's leading charities warns that the Government's flagship changes to the social care system are "built on sand" without adequate funding for disabled and older people and their carers.
The Care and Support Alliance, of which Alzheimer's Society is a member, said the Care Act was a bold attempt to reform the system but without more funding, thousands of disabled and older people will continue to be cut out of the care system and denied access to things as basic as getting up, getting dressed and getting out of the house.
Research by the London School of Economics has shown that around 500,000 older and disabled people who would have received care in 2009 are no longer entitled to it, while the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimate a £4.3billion black hole in social care services by the end of the decade.