LORDS

Lords ask ministers how Government will respond to ageing society

08 January 2013

The House of Lords Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change will hold their final evidence session on Wednesday 9 January, where they will put the vital questions that have emerged over the course of their inquiry to Ministers Jeremy Hunt MP, Norman Lamb MP and Steve Webb MP

Evidence received by the Committee over the last three months has identified that the ageing population is one of the greatest gifts our society has ever experienced, but with the over-65 population expected to nearly double by 2050, it also poses big challenges for individuals and for government – which will be most acute for the UK’s healthcare, social care and pensions systems.

The Committee have heard how the challenges for the funding of public services posed by the ageing society demand a fundamental re-thinking both of what the state should do, and also of the need to transform the health, social care and pension systems. The Nuffield Trust estimated that due to growing demands for health care the NHS in England could experience a funding gap worth between £44 billion and £54 billion in 2021/22 unless offsetting productivity gains can be delivered. The Personal Social Services Research Unit forecast that compared to 2010, demand for social care will increase by 60% to 2030.

Commenting, Lord Filkin, Chairman of the House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change, said:

"Our inquiry is the first by Parliament to assess if our society, our policies and our public services are really ready for ageing.  The evidence we have received so far suggests that we are worryingly underprepared. 

Across diverse areas of public service provision, from health and social care to housing and pension arrangements, witness after witness has told the Committee that the Government have not done enough to react to the challenge and ensure public services are organised in a robust and efficient way. 

We know, for example, that 29% of people admitted to hospital should have been treated elsewhere. As the number of older people increase, and the costs of treatment for their long-term conditions become ever more significant, such failures to deliver what people want will be simply unaffordable.

Our evidence session with Ministers on 9 January is our chance to get answers from Government and put our serious concerns directly to the Ministers responsible. This represents a vital session as we work towards publishing our final report in mid March."

The Committee have already heard evidence from more than 60 witnesses including Sir Bob Kerslake Head of the Civil Service (see note 1 below), the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, SAGA, the Care Quality Commission, Dr Chai Patel, Age UK, the Office for National Statistics, local authority service providers and numerous academic experts. 
 
The Committee’s final evidence session will start at 2.05pm on Wednesday 9 January in Committee Room 3 of the House of Lords. Giving evidence will be:  

  • Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP - Secretary of State for Health
  • Norman Lamb MP – Minister of State for Care and Support, Department of Health
  • Steve Webb MP – Minister of State for Pensions, Department for Work and Pensions.

Areas the Committee will cover with the witnesses include:

  • Have the Cabinet considered the implications of ageing for public policy over the next 10-20 years given this is one of the most significant social changes facing our society?
  • How can health and social care services be changed to deliver what older people need, not reflect professional traditions and boundaries?
  • How can employers’ attitudes and practices be changed so that older people who want to work part time and flexibly can do so?
  • Should steps be taken through the tax and benefit system to incentivise healthy older people to carry on working? 
  • What more needs to be done to ensure social care is of an appropriate quality?

Image: iStockphoto

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