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VOCAL POINT: AGE-OLD PROBLEM

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Local government is best placed to care for the elderly, not the NHS, argues Allan Bowman, strategic director of so...
Local government is best placed to care for the elderly, not the NHS, argues Allan Bowman, strategic director of social care and health, Brighton and Hove Council.

Any suggestion that funding for the care of the elderly be channelled through the NHS (LGC, 7 April) should be firmly challenged. Councils continue to be the only genuinely accountable bodies responsible for delivering services to their local communities.

The transfer of responsibility to the NHS would needlessly place the funding for care services in direct competition with funding for acute services. The transfer of responsibility would also remove local democratic accountability and expose discussions on resource allocation to national pressures - such as improving NHS performance waiting lists - rather than allocation being driven by local community needs.

There is already growing concern, as evidenced by recent Age Concern research, that the NHS has yet to fully confront the impact of ageism on the development and provision of its services.

Since Labour's general election victory local government has emerged as a clear leader of, and vehicle for, partnership - a vehicle that can build partnerships, hold them together and deliver better services on behalf of communities. Significantly, this is a role vigorously promoted by central government.

Local government has long recognised it is not best placed to deliver services directly, but in developing its role as a community champion it cannot be financially castrated and left to tinker at the margins. Local government must continue to have the freedom to allocate resources in imaginative and innovative ways to tackle the problems of and improve life for the most vulnerable in its communities.

Budget discussions can be difficult and the social services corner must be fought. In this era of modern local government, these discussions take place in a climate that recognises investment in education, better transport, better environment and a better local economy have a significant impact on the kind of work we do in social services. No other organisation is as well placed as local government to see the whole picture across its community.

Local government might not be perfect, but it is accountable and it is committed to its community. Without councils, who is going to protect the most vulnerable?

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