Opinion: Care review will be a golden opportunity

Care Support Independence. Do you know about this extensive engagement exercise currently being carried out by the Government?

Are you aware of The Case For Change - Why England Needs a New Care and Support System, the document published in May to summarise it? If not, you should be, because it heralds one of the greatest re-evaluations of the relationship between state and citizen since the introduction of the NHS in 1948. The third sector not only has a functional responsibility to be actively involved in this dialogue, but a moral one too. Many of our current beneficiaries have a stake in the eventual outcomes of the review - as will those yet to be born.

Care Support Independence has been set up to spark a national discussion about the type of long-term care and support system we want and how to pay for it. There are too many stories of people forced to sell their homes to pay for care in their later years, who are plunged into financial mayhem, very often during emotional crises. Third sector organisations that champion older people's interests are powerful advocates of these issues.

Third sector disability organisations also help people of working age who need support, providing advocacy and services. Many disabled people need care for significant periods - sometimes for life. They often have poor prospects of getting employment, occupational pensions and property ownership. The review recognises this by floating the possibility of separate funding and services for disabled and older people. Never has the need for disabled people to get their voice heard been more urgent - an enormous opportunity presents itself to get things right for generations ahead. The third sector needs to support disabled people to effectively contribute to this review. The Government needs to hear from people as well as organisations.

And what of tomorrow's people who may have some need of care? Well, third sector young people's organisations need to galvanise them to think about tomorrow. The invincibility of youth soon fades. Believe me.

- John Knight is assistant director, policy and campaigns, at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com.

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