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Landmark Social Care Proposals Criticised As "Three Steps Forward And Two Steps Backwards"

4 min read

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has criticised the government over its ten year vision for social care announced today, claiming it fails to tackle issues with local authority funding and the workforce crisis.

Hunt said the plan was “three steps forward and two steps backwards”, and believed that unless the government brings forward more measures to help the sector, huge problems will continue.

The government’s long-anticipated social care white paper, titled People At The Heart of Care, was launched by care minister Gillian Keegan in the Commons today.

Labour said it failed to address concern that because local authority care costs will not be included in the £86k social care cap, poorer people may end up spending a greater proportion of their assets than wealthier people.

Hunt, who chairs the Commons health select committee, said he was particularly concerned about two key areas of the paper. 

"Firstly the funding to local authorities for their core responsibilities – it barely gives them enough to deal with demographic change and the national living wage increases, and is a long way off the £7 billion a year increase the [health] select committee called for by the end of the Parliament," he explained. 

“But also it's hard to see the NHS and social care systems being fully integrated as they should be, and it’s very hard to see an end to the workforce crisis which sees 40% turnover in many companies."

Hunt called on Keegan to address whether further measures would be introduced to takle the "huge problems" he had identified. 

“Otherwise we will continue to see hospital wards continuing to be full of people who should be discharged and older people not getting the care they need because the carers do not exist,” he added.

Despite controversy over the costing detail of the social care cap, which caused a rebellion in the House of Commons last week, and faces similar backlash when it reaches the House of Lords, Hunt welcomed the a cap on the amount people pay for their care in principle, which he believed would "make a big difference to many people’s lives and it is welcome".

Keegan defended the white paper to MPs in the commons today, and said the government is exploring further options for local authorities and more details will be set out at the Local Government Finance Settlement held later this month.

A £1 billion spending programme is proposed for social care over the next three years, which will include £300 million on a better range of new supported housing, £150 million on new technology to support people to live independently, and a £500 million investment in a 1.5 million strong social care workforce. There will also be up to £25 million to increase access to respite services for unpaid carers.

“Having 40% churn [in the workforce] and such a high degree of insecurity is not sustainable," Keegan said. 

"It isn’t easy to fix, it’s a large private sector, but we are going to take the steps to fix this and this White Paper is the start of that process."

Former communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said the social care levy introduced on National Insurance would raise £12 billion a year, but only 15% is expected to flow through to local authorities to improve the quality and quantity of care.

“There are many councils listening to the announcement today very concerned about how they’re going to tackle the demographic changes in the years ahead," he said.

Following the publication of the white paper, Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board said that "aspirations and expectations" needed to be balanced against the "reality of the funding backdrop against which councils and care providers are operating, which is insufficient to meet current and rising demand," if reforms to social care were to succeed. 

“Unless these can be urgently addressed as an immediate priority, any long-term proposals for social care – including those in the white paper backed by funding to kick-start change and innovation – will be set up to fail because core services themselves will not be available or sustainable," he added.

Labour’s shadow care minister Liz Kendall called the plan “woefully short of the mark”.

She said that the national insurance tax rise, which she described as a ‘tax hike on working people’, isn’t “fixing the crisis”.

Kendall joined the chorus of critics who have condemned the costing of the social care cap, which some expected could have been mitigated in today's white paper to avoid a Lords rebellion next week. 

“If you own a home worth a million pounds over 90% of your assets will be protected but if your home is worth £100,000, you could end up losing it all,” she said. 

Keegan accused Labour of having done "absolutely nothing" to fix social care. 

Kendall also said ministers had also failed to deal with the immediate pressures on social care as we head into the winter, with 400,000 elderly and disabled people on council waiting lists for care and 100,000 care staff vacancies across the country.


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