Norman Lamb, care minister in an interview with The Daily Telegraph has said that older people were being let down by their friends and neighbours who should help them to live independently at home.  Britain has become a “neglectful society” where the elderly are driven into care homes because they lack support from their families and communities.

Local councils needed to help rebuild “neighbourly resilience” to stop the elderly leading dismal, lonely lives, he said, which would also reduce the burden on the government by avoiding the need for as many people to be moved into residential care home.

Mr Lamb added that the care system would only cope with the pressures of our ageing population if people contributed to a “partnership between state and society.  We all have a part to play. In this way, we can make the system sustainable, and it can be a more decent society, a less neglectful society than we sometimes experience where we just expect the state to do everything,” he said.

He added: “With the right support and the right community resilience, and a rebuilding of the neighbour support that used to be there, more people could stay in their own homes for longer.  “We have lost the extended family because families have become dispersed. We need to rebuild that neighbourly resilience that helps people stay independent. If someone is living on their own never seeing anyone, that is a dismal existence, and it often ends up with it all collapsing and them going into a care home.  “Give them support, some companionship, and help them maintain activity in mind and body and everyone benefits.”

Local authorities should lead the way, Mr Lamb said. He spoke of the good work done by Leeds city council, which has encouraged residents, including the elderly, to “self-manage” health conditions, giving them control of public money to spend on adapting their homes to help them live independently. The minister said that councils should lead the way in encouraging people to help their neighbours stay out of care. “I want local authorities to be giving people guidance about how they can maintain their own resilience, using their friends, their neighbours, their community and in that way build resilience and reduce the burden on the state.”

Mr Lamb’s call for individuals to play a part in addressing the challenge of care may invite comparisons to David Cameron’s calls for a “Big Society”, but the minister insisted: “This is not the Big Society, it’s the decent society.”

HomeCareDirect has been supporting personalisation and people taking charge of their own care at home for over 10 years and welcomes this recognition that when people are able to take control of their funding and choices their lives can be widely improved.  HomeCareDirect has always truly believed that local people looking after people they know and care for is the best solution for both individuals and the state.  Where a friend, neighbour or family member can be paid for their provide for someone local to them this strengthens the community and is truly a move towards a better Big Society.  Acknowledging that people have the right to choose how and where their care is provided and by whom is key to HomeCareDirect’s ethos and it is nice to hear it spoken of by government ministers.