Helen Mary Jones AM, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care
At one point or another, every one of us will have to consider the possibility that we might need care as we get older.
However, it’s not something many people like to think about until we reach the point of having to.
We push it out of our minds for many reasons. There’s a perception that needing care means losing our dignity, and crucially, control over our lives.
There’s a concern that our own care needs become a burden on our loved ones.
But there’s also a worry that we’re not going to be able to afford the care we need.
Sadly, that sometimes people put off asking for the care they need because they fear they won’t be able to afford it, until they become so unwell they end up in hospital.
People also fear the prospect of having to sell their home in order to pay for care.
It’s impossible to put a figure on how many people do find themselves in that position because that data simply isn’t collected.
Of course, Labour has pledged to introduce free personal care in England. But the truth is this: they are the party of government here in Wales and have been for twenty years. They have failed to do here what they promise elsewhere.
I am clear that absolutely no one should have to even think about selling their home in order to pay for the basic care that they require to live with dignity.
That’s why today, I am setting out Plaid Cymru’s plan to make social care free at the point of need to everyone in Wales, delivered through a new National Health and Care Service.
For too long, we’ve seen health and care as two separate areas, with health delivered through the NHS, and care delivered through a mix of public, private and charitable provision.
I don’t knock the motivation and effort of those who deliver care services. There are many examples of good practice, but it’s patchy. The quality of care services you receive, and how easy it is to get that care when you need it, varies depending on where you live, and that’s not good enough.
The current system is unjust and confused. It leaves too many of our fellow citizens without the care they need, or with too little care, or the wrong sort at the wrong time. And it places an almost intolerable burden on unpaid carers.
This has to stop.
Our plan will transform social care into a service that truly supports people’s independence, slashes bureaucracy, and make people’s lives worth living.
And crucially, our plan would save Welsh families over £160 million every year that they would otherwise have to had to pay.
Of course, there will be additional costs further down the line, as we improve the pay and conditions of care workers and drive up the quality of care. But there will also be savings as effective care will enable people to live well and independently, and reduce the pressures on the health service. We will also place far greater emphasis on investment in early intervention and preventative services so that people can be kept healthy and independent.
Our vision is to create a seamless system in which anyone can access the health and care services they need when they need them, because health and care go hand in hand.
If we want our sick, elderly and vulnerable people to be cared for well and with dignity, the social care workforce must be well-enough trained, resourced, and motivated.
And whether we’re thinking of ourselves, our parents or grandparents, or anyone else, surely what we all want is to be able to carry on living with dignity and as much independence as possible?
Plaid Cymru has a vision for care from cradle to grave. Yes, it’s ambitious, and yes, it’s new. So was the NHS when it was first introduced. Shouldn’t we aim to transform our country and improve the lives of our citizens? It’s time to finish the work Aneurin Bevan began.
Our plan is realistic, and together, we can achieve it: a caring country, it’s us.