“Treat the future well; it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children” Adapted from a north American Indian saying
Any sensible review of care; how we provide it and the cost of providing it, will recognise that we need to intervene upstream. This blog takes a view on the lack of support for carers, those 6.5million unpaid friends and family members who day after day provide the care without which our health and social care system would be overrun.
So what do we mean by upstream?
Looking for the causes of long term health e.g. educating and encouraging healthy eating and exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease and a 101 other ailments. Providing early intervention with mental health problems helps to prevent hospital admissions, sex education helps reduce unplanned pregnancies etc.
As Public Health notes, investing upstream in prevention rather than downstream in intervention is often wiser and more effective, or as grandma said “a stitch in time…”
Simple then, so why do we sell off playing fields whilst increasing a focus on the 3 R’s and then act surprised when surrounded by childhood obesity? Why when faced with savage local authority cuts is our attention immediately drawn from prevention to the pressing symptoms and expensive reactive interventions?
So in this extended period of austerity let’s talk about carers, if carers stopped today the swamped system which would collapse tomorrow – simple. Nothing can be clearer than the upstream contribution carers make to the system.
You may say “well it was always thus” however the UK demographic is changing strikingly, some facts to ponder:
• One in five people aged 50-64 in the UK are carers to an older family member, yet the same number have no children of their own to fulfill this role for them, already one million over 65’s fit into this category and this is forecasted to double by 2030.
• Carers aged 75 and over have increased by 35% since 2001
• There are now more older people in need of care than there are adult children able to provide it.
The 2014 Care Act did provide recognition and provided some rights e.g. to have a carers assessment, but the harsh reality in these times of de-growth is that cash strapped local authorities fail to ‘advertise’ this, have created waiting lists and have then restricted the resources allocated post assessment.
Surely if we cannot get our act together to do anything else upstream, we should be providing much more meaningful resource to the unpaid workforce that lives there, because if they crumble its game over.