For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been training with my first guide dog, Jennie, at the Clifton Hotel in Teignmouth.
I had been on the waiting list for a guide dog for around three years and clearly the pandemic has, as with many other things been delayed.
I suffer from a juvenile form of macular degeneration, which means I’ve lost a significant element of my central vision and have been registered blind since I was 18.
About 5 years ago, it became more and more challenging when I found myself not seeing lamp posts or wheelie bins and struggling in busy streets.
Developing a bond with a new guide dog is something that takes months but I am pleased to report that we’re off to a good start as she is already able to support me with some of the challenges I face in life.
Social care has always been a really important element of council work to me, both because of being adopted and my visual disability.
Social care means giving people the choice to live independently as they grow older, living longer in their own homes and making their own decisions on their choices of care.
This vision is not met without challenges and amongst the most difficult ones are the recruitment of care workers and the increasing costs of care coupled with the rising number of people needing it.
Nationally, the care system was already at crisis point but the coronavirus pandemic has caused more problems.
While recruitment remains a national challenge, Torbay faces its own local challenges.
Around 27 per cent of our population is aged 65 or over, compared to just 18 per cent across England.
By 2040, this is expected to rise to one in three - 34 per cent - of Torbay’s population and will require more support from health and social care services now and in the future.
At the moment, we simply do not have enough money to fund the ongoing costs of local care.
The Government plans to introduce a Health and Social Care Levy through increasing National Insurance contributions but that will be allocated in the first instance to the NHS.
So, as a council, we are working with our partners to take proactive steps to address the funding and recruitment challenges.
We have invested money in the community to help people stay well but although this is working, we still have a lot of people who need care.
We are also building ‘extra care’ housing to help people stay independent.
We are streamlining how people access services and encouraging the community to work together.
However, all this needs investment which is not possible without making use of the adult social care precept.
This is why we have no choice but to include the additional one per cent increase which the Government is allowing all local authorities to make in our budget proposals for 2022/23.
This investment in social care and in prevention and wellbeing is about future-proofing the system, meaning that people will need less expensive care in the future.
It is crucial to meet the ongoing needs of Torbay’s population.
We are also actively working with care providers in Torbay to recruit more care workers.
We have 79 bed-based care providers - nursing/residential care, supported living - and 20 domiciliary care providers across Torbay, all of whom are impacted by staff shortages.
With a father in residential care and a mother-in-law receiving care support at home, I regularly see at first hand the caring and professional work that these incredible people do.
Every care worker is a credit to our community but we need more people stepping into these roles.
Over the next three years we aim to recruit 200 new care workers in the Bay.
If you would like to learn more about opportunities in Torbay visit www.torbaycares.co.uk or text “I care” to 60060.
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