Boris Johnson’s plans are not enough, social care should be free at the point of delivery
The Government's additional £1bn spending commitment is not sufficient even to meet the current gap, it's clear our social care system needs urgent reform, writes Helen Hayes MP.
Across the country, there is clear and urgent need to reform the social care system.
A vast unsustainable gap exists between current funding levels and the reality on the ground. Local authorities are struggling with stretched budgets and facing difficult daily decisions to cut care packages or to raise the threshold to qualify for support. As a consequence, many are losing highly valued staff and every day across the country a million people who are eligible for care are not receiving any support.
With an ageing population and increasing demand for social care for working age adults this crisis will only grow. The Local Government Association estimates that the shortfall between funding and need will be £1.5 billion in 2019/20. This will grow to a staggering £3.5 billion by 2024/25.
The effects of the Government’s failure on social care can be seen in every MP’s inbox. We see this crisis in families struggling to meet the cost of their parents’ care; in patients with dementia facing the difficult decision to sell their family home; in adults with learning disabilities forced to live in hospitals because the community based provision they need simply doesn’t exist; and staff working in overwhelming and desperate conditions without the support they deserve.
Labour has been calling for urgent action on social care for years, and our manifesto committed to establishing a National Care Service with free personal care and the widescale recruitment of skilled staff to ensure demand can be met. Yet, the Tories have stubbornly failed to act, even in response to calls to end the crisis from Tory-run councils like Somerset. Following the disastrous impact of Theresa May’s ‘dementia tax’ policy in the 2017 General Election, the last Government delayed publishing the Social Care Green Paper six times in the space of eighteen months.
The Queen’s Speech set out Boris Johnson’s Government’s plans for social care, committing an additional £1bn each year and to seek cross-party consensus on long-term funding arrangements. However, £1bn is not sufficient even to meet the current funding gap, and extensive cross-party work has already been carried out to analyse the current state of social care and engage members of the public in developing solutions which can command a consensus of support.
In 2018 the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and the Health and Social Care Select Committee undertook a joint inquiry on the future funding of adult social care. We established an innovative citizens’ assembly to consider how adult social care should be funded long term. 47 members of the public, from different regions, backgrounds and political views, were brought together to hear from experts, to discuss proposals and agree preferred solutions to inform our inquiry recommendations.
The inquiry report set out detailed proposals for local and national funding mechanisms and proposed that care should be free at the point of delivery. The report was unanimously agreed by both cross-party committees and its recommendations were based on those agreed by the citizens’ assembly. Yet eighteen months later, the government has yet to respond formally to the report and went into the election with a vague commitment to do more cross-party work.
The state of our care system is causing millions of people to live in misery. It is an affront to our values and places unnecessary strain on our NHS by increasing emergency hospital admissions and GP visits. Families across the country need clarity and peace of mind about the future of care and how this will be funded. There is simply no excuse for further prevarication or delay.
The Government must build upon the detailed, cross-party work carried out by the joint select committee inquiry and publish concrete proposals for public consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny. Every single day that they refuse to do so represents the further failure of our most vulnerable residents, and the failure to build a society in which any one of us, regardless of our circumstances can live with dignity.
Helen Hayes is a Labour Member of Parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood.