With the General Election over and a new Parliament in place, politicians are once again discussing the future of social care. At Independent Age, we’ve been campaigning for the introduction of free personal care in England for a year now. This would mean that help with everyday activities like washing, preparing a meal or getting dressed would be available free at the point of use for people over 65 who need it.
I was particularly struck by the case for free personal care when I spoke to Joyce, one of our campaigners who lives with MS. She moved from England to Scotland, where free personal care has been available since 2002, and her experience really highlights the impact free personal care could have.
When living in England, Joyce did not receive the care she needed. She was struggling with things like washing and preparing a meal but didn’t know who to contact about getting help and did not think she would be eligible for any support. Joyce’s experience is one we hear about all too often at Independent Age, as many people feel confused by the social care system and don’t know where to turn if they are struggling.
Joyce made the decision to move to Glasgow so that she could be closer to her daughter. This move was life-changing as she found herself in a completely different social care system. Several months after moving to Glasgow, Joyce had a fall which resulted in a visit from her Doctor and some time spent in A&E. As Scotland provides free personal care for all older people, Joyce received a social care assessment when she was discharged. This assessment recommended that Joyce receive four care visits a day and the support she needed with washing, dressing and having a meal prepared. Joyce still gets this support over 10 years later.
Hearing Joyce describe the difference free personal care had made reinforces just how important our Let’s get personal Campaign is: “It was fantastic! I didn’t realise how tired I’d become - I had been eating ready meals shoved into the microwave, and now I could eat something freshly cooked for me! It was great! I also realised that I hadn’t been washing myself very well and certainly not had a shower for ages!”
Speaking to people like Joyce is essential to ensure that we are campaigning for the system improvements that people need as they grow older. That’s why Independent Age has launched a survey, asking people in Scotland to share their experience of free personal care to help us learn about the benefits and challenges of the system.
Joyce told us that the system “wasn’t without it’s difficulties” and hearing about the realities of these problems can help us campaign for the right changes in England.