WE’RE writing to ask your readers to put their names to the county council’s Stand Up For Care online petition (www.somerset.gov.uk/standupforcare).

Three months ago, two BBC Panorama documentaries brought social care and the pressures it faces into the nation’s living rooms. People were moved, inspired and angered; and the subject rightly became part of the national political debate.

Since then, Westminster has been on its summer recess and Brexit continues to dominate the minds of many. There’s a real danger that reform of social care funding - arguably the biggest and most important challenge facing this country - gets overlooked. That’s why we have launched this online petition and are urging people to sign it.

It is on the Government’s Petition Parliament website and calls for cross-party parliamentary discussions before Christmas about how to end the social care funding shortfall. This is a national issue of the utmost importance and a challenge that can only realistically be risen to if parties work together. This petition has the backing of the group leaders of all the County Council’s political groups.

Councils up and down the country are struggling to provide the care and support people deserve because funding just hasn’t kept pace with the growing demands of an ageing population – more people living longer, often with conditions needing support from social care as well as health.

The Local Government Association calculates that by 2025 the national adult social care funding gap will be around £3.5billion. The County Council Network estimates by 2024/25 councils will need to spend an extra £6.1bn every year on social care, compared to 2015/16.

Somerset’s demography, plus the challenges that come with a rural county, make this an issue we are grappling with before many others. In 20 years 32 per cent of our population will be aged 65 or over, compared with 24 per cent nationally. Social care is already where 38 per cent of our net budget is spent - £126m a year.

SIGN THE PETITION: Click here to add your name

One day, many of us will rely on social care and if not us, then our friends, family and loved ones. We must do everything we can to keep this most important of issues at the very forefront of minds in Westminster.

As a council we’re working differently. Working closely with health and increasingly with communities to help people live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. But secure, appropriate long-term funding is needed; and this is a nettle successive governments have been unable to grasp.

That cannot continue. We have to keep this at the top of the Westminster to do list. So, please help us Stand Up For Care by signing the petition.

Councillor David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council
Councillor Jane Lock, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Somerset County Council
Councillor Leigh Redman, Leader of the Labour Group, Somerset County Council
Councillor John Hunt, Leader of the Independent Group, Somerset County Council
Councillor Martin Dimery, Leader of the Green Group, Somerset County Council