Learning Essential for Future of Care

4th July 2011

The role of learning needs to be secured and enhanced for people in care settings and their carers, says NIACE in response to the publication of the Fairer Care Funding/Dilnot Report.

NIACE welcomes the broad direction of the Dilnot report, particularly its recommendations for a public awareness campaign, a new information and advice strategy and better carer assessment. However, NIACE believes that if Dilnot’s vision of a new settlement for later life care is to be achieved then effective strategies to support learning in later life will need to be an essential part of the overall settlement.

Peter Lavender, Deputy Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“This report is a skilful job hard on the heels of a national mental health strategy, Department of Health work on the terminally ill and much public disquiet about care homes and the balance between personal and State funding for care. The Dilnot report states that the care and support system in England doesn’t work and that we need to celebrate longer independent and enjoyable lives. This is a challenge and early warnings of substantial public investment required are no surprise. And if as a society we need to find £2.2 billion extra it must include investment in learning that enhances a high-quality care experience. 

“If the Commission’s recommendations are going to work attention needs to be given to the quality of support as well as to the funding. At the moment the Care Quality Commission inspects care homes and is meant to look at the activities on offer to residents. Learning promotes healthier and happier old age. All care home owners and managers need to give more attention to learning opportunities and activities: many miss out on. We would, as NIACE found in its Transformation Fund projects, see real health and wellbeing benefits to residents as they followed their passions and interests in learning new things and re-learning skills and knowledge they have lost.”

“Education policy is frequently based on a traditional pyramid population structure – most investment in education is put in at the early stages of life, whereas research tells us that as the structure is changing as the population ages, spreading the funding throughout life is a more sensible and effective investment. There are more people in the fourth stage, with more people, mainly in the final years of their lives, dependent on others for some aspects of daily life.”

“We need to have employment statistics visible for those beyond 65; a rebalancing of resources to the older age groups; and a greater focus on older people learning how to manage their own physical and mental health as far as possible. This includes managing relationships with the providers of health, holding personal budgets, and a healthier old age based on continued learning – which in turn builds up resilience to symptoms of dementia.”

“Reform is long overdue but the cost should not be a block for Government even at a time of fiscal restraint. If there is some improvement in the quality of what people can expect from the care system, and that later life is something to be embraced and celebrated – it is a price worth paying.”