I spoke this morning at the first Board meeting of the newly reorganised London TravelWatch led by Sharon Grant. One of their great strengths is that they represent people in all the different modes of transport – drivers, bus users, pedestrians – so can help join things up. Good luck to them!
Then I was on a panel at a Counsel and Care conference on older people’s care. There was an interesting presentation from the company Tunstall on how technology is beginning to change care. One mother of a child with disabilities said “I have been able to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in many years, as I no longer have to stay awake at night worrying.” They argue that one million people using ‘telecare’ could save 5.3 billion in five years time.
But there are big claims and big issues across social care policy – with a Green Paper on social care in England expected soon. There is a real sense of momentum around personalised budgets, with places like Oldham showing the way – but equally a recognition that there are limits, risks and in particular resources are a big issue. Who pays for care and are local authorities cutting back? Malcolm Dean, a fellow trustee on the Young Foundation, has found that we spend twice the amount now on social care but help half the number of people.
The truth is that the economy and society rests on a bedrock of care. Money is tight, but the recession forces us to rethink our priorities, as the longer challenge of climate change does. Both may mean that we need to value care, harness new people-centred technologies and invest more as a society in the gentle, low-carbon art of local help for local people.