Britain has become a ‘neglectful society’, warns care minister

The demands of modern life have turned Britain into a “neglectful society” in which has become the norm for older people to be left isolated, a minister has warned.

Care cap will only help small minority of elderly, officials admit

Norman Lamb: we have become a neglectful society Photo: Alban Donohoe

Norman Lamb, the care minister, said that elderly people are being starved of basic kindness and companionship because of extended family networks, which once underpinned society, have been increasingly dispersed.

Mr Lamb, who is spearheading wide-ranging reforms to the care system, said state intervention would not in itself be enough provide people with the “good life” in their final years unless people “step up” and play a greater part.

Addressing a conference organised by the Alzheimer’s Society in London, he also acknowledged that the home-care system is now so starved of cash that increasingly depends on “exploiting” low-paid carers, often immigrant workers, who “subsidise” their work from their own pocket.

It follows a study by the Resolution Foundation think-tank showing that many carers are effectively being denied the minimum wage because agencies refuse to pay them while they are travelling between appointments or refund their transport costs

Mr Lamb disclosed that ministers are considering outlawing the practice but suggested that it might also require the taxpayer to pay more to make up the difference.

But he added that it also raised the question of communities playing a greater role in providing care.

“This is not the state abdicating its responsibility,” he said.

“But if we are to get very good quality care but also the kindness and companionship that makes for a good life, then statutory services can’t do it on their own and sometimes we think that they can.

“Extended families have been dispersed around the country and sometimes beyond.

“We have inadvertently ended up with what can be a neglectful society with people sometimes living on their own, very lonely and isolated lives.

“All of us have to confront this and there is a need for us all to step up and play our part in making lives better for people who at the moment are very isolated.

“There is no easy solution to this.”