TW – Article contains reference to mental health and suicidal thoughts.
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There Needs to be a Fourth Emergency Service – Liberal Article
On Valentine’s Day, I was meant to be writing about love in lockdown and dating through the pandemic. But, due to unforeseen events that unfolded that evening, I think we could all benefit from extending the love we reserve for our nearest and dearest to our wider community instead.
I want to talk about how much of a necessity it should be to have social services as a fourth emergency service.
Social care is often misunderstood, hard to define, and forgotten about by the general public – especially adult social care. In its most simplified form, it can be defined as support for people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities or physical and mental illnesses to live with independence and dignity. Due to adult care being a complex interconnected system of services and support, it can be overly conflated by being under the NHS umbrella.
This is a massive problem when it comes to emergency services as there are often times where a crime has not been committed, nor is anyone in need of pressing medical attention, but urgent care is still needed. For example, take an adult who is living on their own, who is having suicidal thoughts, or is experiencing an addiction relapse (both of which have increased during the pandemic). Who do you call to access physical services?
The fact there is no preventative or mitigating emergency services – I understand that is an oxymoron – adds more volatility and pressure to only act or access help in the most critical of circumstances. Ambulance workers are not mental health professionals and police officers are (obviously) not social workers. So why are they being called out to deal with these issues that they are not best suited to?
Under Conservative leadership, over the past decade, social care funding has been slashed amongst many other vital services that serve to help societies most vulnerable. To restore social care access to its 2010/11 levels the government would need to increase its budget by £12.2 billion or increase its current budget by more than 160%. Worryingly, these projections of the budget only meet the demand before the Coronavirus pandemic.
I waited two hours on Sunday evening for an ambulance, knowing all the while there would be nothing they could do, yet the person in question needed critical and urgent support. We were at loss. I am not aggrieved or resentful of the emergency services, it is at no fault of a worker themselves. They are also victims of emergency services; they’ve been warped into a cure for all for anyone with any urgent problem.
I am calling for a fourth service that is offered when you ring 999. One that is treated with the same seriousness and attention as if you have called the ambulance or police. After all, this would alleviate the huge strain the emergency services are already under. Furthermore, this should offer more targeted and specific help the benefits the person in need, de-escalating the problem.
It is pointless to outline the tidal wave of unforeseen negative effects the pandemic has brought upon us. But the crisis in social care has been a simmering issue for decades; it has just reached its boiling point during the three consecutive lockdowns. Adult social care is not an ‘attractive’ issue, it cannot be packaged with stickers of a small vulnerable child. It is often helping the people you tell yourself you’re not crossing the street to avoid.
There is a saying that schools are the fourth emergency service for children, but what institution do you call when you are worried about an adult?
Written by Junior Liberal Writer, Lucy Severn
Point of Information
Social care may not be an ‘attractive’ issue, but it is absolutely essential – A Conservative Response
Lucy has brought forth an issue that I see very little discussion of in the media. Yet it is incredibly important that we have this conversation. Mental health and drug addiction were epidemics before the pandemic; they have become increasingly more problematic throughout the pandemic.
The underfunding and limited resources of both the NHS and the police is no new conversation. They are notoriously underfunded and overworked. This was a problem before the pandemic and has only increased since. As Lucy explains, there are many instances when the police or the ambulance are being called when their services aren’t appropriate.
According to a study done on the EMS, between March and July of 2020, there was a sharp increase in calls in response to drug overdoses; the resultant deaths; mental and behavioural issues. Additionally, opioid-related activities between the February-March period of 2020 reached over double from the same period in 2019. Calls related to mental health increased drastically between the same periods, from under 35,000 per week to almost 45,000 calls per week.
Statistics surrounding the effect that the pandemic has had on suicide rates have yet to be released. The statistics on opioid use and mental health, however, are enough to see that adults are struggling, and there is a gap in the services available to them.
As Lucy notes, this is of no fault of the police or the ambulance services. There is a severe lack of funding as it is, in conjunction with the fact that their workload has increased drastically throughout the pandemic.
So what is there to do?
There is a clear gap in the emergency services. A fourth emergency service devoted to social services is essential. It would allow ambulance teams and the police to focus on the areas that they are trained in. Funding must be redistributed to allow for such a service. This type of service could save many lives. Adults suffering from the complex issues of addiction or suicidal thoughts could receive the correct type of support.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
A fifth emergency service? – A Labour Response
Social care, or the lack thereof, is such a pressing issue that is simply neglected by both the government and the media. It shouldn’t be. Adult health issues, whether physical, mental or emotional, are too often swept under the carpet. They’re adults who can look after themselves right? Wrong. I am grateful Lucy has started a conversation around the necessity of improved social care.
I could list so many examples of someone I know needing social care intervention. But rather than getting the help they need and deserve, they have been placed on waiting lists for months, forcing them to sit helplessly and watch their condition worsen. This is true across a whole range of needs, from elderly home carers to mental health support for young adults.
Admittedly, there is a growing awareness around these issues so you likely will be aware (at least to a minimal extent) of the problems Lucy has referred to. However, has there ever been a sound discussion to actively find a solution? I don’t think that there has.
A fourth emergency service is a logical solution. I am not sure you could argue the extension of support is a bad thing, unless of course you agree with the government’s prioritisation of funding elsewhere. In that case, I would fundamentally disagree with you; social care funding should never have been slashed.
This service should present itself, as Lucy says, as another option when you call 999. Then, instead of waiting months on a waiting list to gain access to home carers, you have access to immediate support to prevent the exacerbation of your needs. While there is currently the option of immediate support from paramedics and sometimes police officers, their training is often limited. If you get to the point of needing to call 999, you are likely in need of support from someone who hasn’t simply ticked a box.
Ultimately, I think an emergency social service response team would prove a welcome solution to the problems we know exist. This could even be separated into two new services; one for adult social care and a separate one specifically for mental health support. So could a fifth emergency service be on the cards? I wouldn’t be opposed.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo