Anyone catching the Future of Social Care debate in the House of Commons yesterday must have been struck by the lack of MPs bothering to turn up to discuss on of the most important issues facing the country at the moment.
Perhaps every MP should look to their own constituency and take a real look at the demographics and data of those they are paid to represent in order to realise the importance of social care in their community.
I live in the district of Shepway and delving into the data makes startling reading. I would hasten to add that the local MP (Damian Collins – Folkestone & Hythe) did attend the debate and make a contribution through an intervention, but I think it is important to share some of the facts and figures to demonstrate why MPs need to look to their own constituency to realise the importance of focusing on social care.
Shepway has an estimated population of 101,200, not a major metropolis but it does have one of the largest care sectors in the county of Kent and, despite persistent rumours of affluence in the south east, is in the top 100 most deprived districts in the country.
Of that population 15% is over the age of 70 & 6% over the age of 80. Many of these will be recipients of some form of social care services either at home or in care home settings, of which there are 110 in Shepway (the same number as registered in Brighton & Hove despite the huge population difference). Obviously with a huge amount of care provision there is an equally large social care workforce, all of whom are affected by social care policy set out by Westminster and the policies of Westminster therefore have an impact on the local economy.
Naturally paid for social care provision is not the only aspect of social care. Data from 2001 suggests that around 10% of the districts population are providing unpaid care to family or friends, with 279 of these being under the age of 18. Again decisions made in Westminster have a direct impact on the lives of these people and on those people they care for.
Around 10% of the people who live in Shepway claim Disability benefits (2011 figs) the majority of whom have physical disabilities but it also includes 1365 people with learning disabilities and 1071 with mental health issues.
Social care should be about people not about facts and figures but it is important that those we pay to represent us are aware of the importance on social care and just how much social care impacts on the lives of their constituents.
There may be many demands on an MPs time and there may be many areas of policy the promote or prefer to be associated with but the bottom line is they are paid to represent us and they should especially be representing the most vulnerable section of the community they have been elected to represent.
There has been much emphasis on leadership in social care of late and one key element of leadership is acting as a role model. Members of Parliament need to act as role models in supporting the vulnerable in society, that means visibly showing active interest and that means turning up for debates in the House!