The needs of people with dementia must move to the top of the agenda as we emerge from COVID-19. That starts with dementia research, because ultimately our goal must be to prevent, treat and ultimately cure this often heart-breaking condition – as a former trustee of Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Services I know all too well the devastating impact this disease has on individuals and families (see my support for dementia research last September here).
I am disappointed that dementia research funding has fallen over recent years, from £112.9 million in 2018/19 to £104.7 million in 2019/20. The Conservative Government has pledged to double research funding into dementia by the end of the decade, yet no details have been outlined on how and when this will be delivered. And at the Autumn Budget and Spending Review in October, the Chancellor not only failed to provide these details, but he also delayed £2 billion in annual spending on research and development.
I am pleased that the Labour Party has committed to double current spending on dementia research to £160 million a year to drive up efforts to find a cure. This forms part of a wider ambition to not only protect but enhance the UK science base and achieve 3% of GDP spent on science and research across the economy.
The second issue Ministers need to grasp is transforming dementia care. For too long, social care has lacked the priority and funding it deserves. A decade of cuts to local government has resulted in £8 billion being lost from adult social care budgets, and too many people have been left to cope without the support they need.
In my view, the Conservative Government’s manifesto-breaking decision to increase taxes to pay for reforms to the sector will do nothing to improve the quality or provision of care; there will be no new money for social care for at least three years and Ministers have refused to guarantee that people will not have to sell their homes to pay for care.
The government has pledged £.1.6 billion of funding for local authorities to help with social care however only a share of this funding is going to adult social care in the 2021 autumn budget and spending review. The Alzheimer’s society stated that ‘its’s two years since the governments promise to double dementia research funding – yet nothing has happened. They are calling on the government to honour their commitment to double dementia research funding rescuing the hopes of dementia research.’
I support a long-term plan of investment and reform that will empower care users by expanding the options between care at home and residential care. We also need a plan that sets out a new deal for frontline care workers to transform pay, training and working conditions.