The debate about the future of social care in England has reached a (another?) critical place this week with high-level discussion between care providers and charities, the Labour party and the Lib Dems. The Conservatives are currently refusing to take part, apparently over the issue of having the option of a compulsory fee on the table - what a pity, when we so desperately need an honest and wide-thinking discussion right now, before political and media interest moves on.
I believe that people generally do want to find a better way to provide and pay for care, especially if they have been involved in trying to give it or organise it. We are currently analysing data from an on-line survey about the 'price of old age', from which it is already clear that most of the people who took part in that survey think there is a middle ground between state organised and private provision where a fair balance of responsibility can be negotiated. But it's also clear that many people have too little information about what help is available and what care might be needed in certain conditions, so it's hard to get a consensus view on where that fair balance lies.
I think that we are just beginning this national conversation and there will have to be changes and adjustments in the years ahead, but we need two things now: better access to information for people who find themselves needing care services, and more direct routes for people to raise problems when the services on offer don't match what people actually want.