Caught up with a few of my old friends at European Care today. This is an expanding care services company which owns well over 100 care homes and delivers care services to all age groups. There was a meeting of the Wales Advisory Board that I used to chair at the Royal Oak in Welshpool. I was invited along to join them for lunch. The beef was roasted and I was grilled. First time I've been quizzed as if a representative of the Coalition Government. Some direct personal questions as well - and several about the shenanigans at S4C. I'll return to this issue after my next meeting with Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaisey, when maybe there will be something new.
I'll always be grateful to European Care and the charity the group sponsored, RESEC (Research into Specialist Care) which stimulated my growing interest in social care (particularly for the elderly). I'm toying with the idea of seeking permission to bring forwards a full debate on the floor of the House of Commons about the provision of care for elderly. Its not straightforward because the Coalition Government has established a Commission to look at the issue. Its expected to report next July, and its a question of whether there's any point in a debate before we have the Government's response to the Commission report - probably towards the end of 2011. At the moment, this seems too far into the future to allow this subject to lie undebated. Discussion of this issue has not been very structured or dignified over the last two years. In the last Parliament, the then Labour Government took The Personal Care at Home Act 2010 through Parliament, ostensibly to deliver free care at home for the elderly in most need. In my opinion this was a shockingly opportunistic, irresponsible Act, for which the statutory instruments will never be laid - rightly. And the less said about the debate that took place on this during the election campaign, the better.
Paying for the care of the elderly is one of the biggest challenges facing the Coalition Government. Extra funding was earmarked during the Comprehensive Spending Review, but its nothing like enough to tackle the scale of the problem. I hope the commission comes up with some innovative thinking. Anyway it was a most enjoyable lunch for me. My replacement, Eurig Wyn turfed me out when lunch was over, and got back down to business with an efficiency I'd have been proud of. I was impressed.