Can we stop pitting services against each other?

Last night, on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? programme, the following question was put: With current restraints on public funding which would the panel prioritise, the Welsh Language or care services?

Firstly let’s explain the costs, health & social care in Wales amounts to well over £7 billion in Wales every year. Spending on the ‘Welsh language’ cost is unknown, but likely to be around £150 million. Half of this is for S4C, which is not devolved and mostly comes out of the BBC license fee anyway, so wouldn’t be available to just throw at social care. So we’re already down to around £75million. To put this into a proportion we can understand, for every £700 that is spent on Health & Social care, £7.50 is spent on the ‘Welsh langauge’.

Nia Griffith was first to answer, a previous Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, and picked care services, as did a previous Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb. He went further saying we need some ‘common sense on this’. Finally Sir Emyr Jones Parry has some sense. “It cannot either be an either or”. Dimbleby presses him, you’re asked for an either or, but he stood ground and refused to give a straight answer. Leanne Wood agreed with Sir Emyr, and went further, even if every penny that was spent on the Welsh languge were put into the care budget, it would make almost no difference.

This is an important distinction. The failure of politicians, from both sides of the isle, to properly address the issue of rising care needs should not lead us in pitting services against each other. Especially ones that are a million miles apart in impact and aims. A much more sensible question could be what should we prioritise, raises on the state pension or social care?

This is a dangerous slippery slope, and it comes from the Tories’ message that we have to have austerity, there is no choice. Labour have failed to challenge this narrative enough, and has led us to people thinking the state must be shrunk. It does not.

This takes me back to last summer, and NHS England’s complaining it shouldn’t need to give PrEP to high risk individuals.

“NHS told to give out £5,000 lifestyle drug to prevent HIV, as vital catharac surgery is rationaed”(Daily Mail, 3/8/2016), and even the Times said it would ‘rob’ children with cystic fybrosis and cancer of vital care.

These comparisons are very dangerous, and we forget that an universal health system means we shouldn’t pit things against each other. We shouldn’t need to pick. There is enough money to do both. Tax cuts to the rich means there isn’t. We can always fight to raise them again. There is enough money, we can have both.