It’s a good question and not one with an easy answer! In order to write this piece I started by visiting the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem party websites, to download their manifesto and start to analyse their position on key campaigns that affect rural communities. With just over 4 weeks to go until the Election, the parties have yet to publish their manifesto, with the Conservative one not due out for another 2 weeks.
It can be hard to cut through the election posturing of the main players to actually see what the parties are saying on subjects other than Brexit, and yet, once Brexit has been settled one way or another, the parties need to focus on domestic issues that have been set aside for the last few years and neglected. Social care, housing and the health service are all areas needing the attention and focus of our politicians.
I decided that instead of looking at their manifestos, I would attempt to explore one issue which is critical to the Rural Services Network and it’s membership of rural local authorities with their high percentage of elderly residents, social care.
The Conservative party have not published their long awaited social care green paper whilst in power, and social care has yet to feature prominently in their election plans. They want to focus on strengthening the NHS but so far talk more of building hospitals, recruiting medical staff and increasing NHS budgets, rather than resolving the funding crisis in social care. The Queens Speech, seen by many as a ‘pre-election manifesto’, talked of reforming adult social care to ensure dignity in old age but without details.
The Labour party wants to introduce a National Care Service which would extend personal care to the over 65s. Their plans would also address the funding gap in social care, support local authorities to directly provide, rather than outsource care and support the care workforce better, to ensure that older people receive support from trained staff who have the time and skills needed to provide care.
The Liberal Democrat party has so far released four plans for the future which don’t feature social care however they do detail on their website, plans to increase income tax to meet immediate priorities in social care, reverse cuts to public health, and invest in mental health.
In summary, so far lots of good soundbites and headline grabbing content, but as a rural resident, trying to get to the bottom of what the parties will do for my rural community to address issues of fair funding for all public services in rural areas, unaffordable homes, poor public transport links, poor connectivity and expensive social care service costs, I’m not much the wiser!
The Rural Services Network will continue to monitor the policies of the three main parties to see whether they will be addressing the complex challenges that our rural communities face in the coming years, and sharing that detail with you in time.
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