The issue of social care highlights a very big difference between the Liberal Democrats and the other parties. We know that older people are suffering because the health and social care system just can't provide them with the support they need. Too many people are kept in hospital when there's no medical reason because healthcare and social services staff can't get their acts together to put in place what they will need quickly enough.
You can pretty much name any problem that takes your fancy and Labour's default reaction will be to centralise it. You see, they don't see people as individuals, but as an amorphous blob with uniform needs. Their "any colour as long as its black" approach to public services expects people to take what they're given. It's not surprising therefore that their answer to the problems with care is to create a National Care Service where a legion of Holyrood based bureaucrats will work out what people are entitled to and will give it to them whether it suits them or not. COSLA has today warned against that approach, saying that it will cost £300 million for little actual gain.
The Liberal Democrats natural instinct is to make the service as tailored to the needs of the individual as possible. Our manifesto reaffirms our commitment to free personal care, which would never have been introduced without us. I think what's particularly good about what we offer in our manifesto is that we're going to ensure that local authorities offer people a range of options that they can choose from so they have some control over the process.
You can read more of the detail in our full manifesto here but these are some of our ideas in brief.
Bridge the gap between health and social care, making sure that individuals have the support they need stay in their own homes where possible. We oppose the centralisation of care into a single, national care service, with little accountability and enormous costs and bureaucracy.
Protect free personal care, a proud achievement of our time in government.
Help individuals with long term conditions or their carers design the best healthcare for their individual needs.
We will require local authorities to offer a range of self-directed support options to give people control over their care and provide them with the information they need to make informed choices. We will develop community initiatives which provide information and support for self-management.
It seems to me that Labour wants to build a big system, whereas Liberal Democrats want to look at the person first. That seems to be the sensible, compassionate, sustainable approach. A system that requires managers to tick boxes and hit targets is one thing, but surely it's more important to build a service that meets the needs of the people who use it.