Lisa Nandy MP: Real change needed in social care
This week’s Queen’s Speech offers the Government an important chance to outline a detailed and ambitious plan for how, as we emerge from the pandemic, we can make Britain the best place to grow up and grow old.
The message from the local elections last week is that people are demanding and are owed a real change.
After 11 years in power the Tories have given up defending their record. Even they can see the cracks in the wall – from a rise in violent crime, to widespread economic insecurity and a broken social care system.
This is not the time for tinkering around the edges. Instead, we must match the scale of the moment.
One of the most vital issues for the Government to tackle is fundamental reform of our social care system so that more people can stay in their own home, be supported to live full lives and not worry about costs.
For far too long, social care has lacked the priority, attention and funding it deserves, and care workers have been undervalued and underpaid.
The pandemic has brutally exposed the underlying problems with our social care system and proved that real change is needed now more than ever. Reform is vital to increase access to care, to help the 1.5 million people that Age UK report are currently going without the support they need, and to protect people from high care costs.
Of course, the immediate cause of the current problems with the care system is the 10 years of cuts to local authority budgets. Across the country local authorities have had £8 billion removed from their budgets, which has meant fewer people getting help and not enough people getting the type and quality of help that they need.
Spending per person on social care has fallen by 12% since 2010 and the UK currently spends less on social care than the EU average.
This all comes at the same time as the demand for social care is continuing to rise with the older population increasing and the prevalence of disability among working age adults also rising.
The result is that an estimated 17,000 older people have to sell their homes every year just to fund the care they need.
The Conservative Party’s manifesto at the last election promised us a comprehensive plan for social care reform and the Prime Minister himself in his first speech on the steps of Downing Street famously pledged to fix the crisis in social care “once and for all”. However, almost two years later this plan is still nowhere to be seen.
The often-mentioned cross-party talks aimed at agreeing a way forward on social care have failed to materialise despite repeated calls for them to take place from MPs on all sides.
How to fund reform of our social care system has been the political stumbling block for decades and reaching a consensus on this is needed to move forward at this time.
Unfortunately, with the Queen’s Speech this week the Government has once again dodged the opportunity to introduce much needed reforms to the social care system.
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are said to be at war over how to fund the necessary changes and as a consequence it is unlikely that any firm proposals will be introduced any time soon.
The Government needs to show that it understands that social care is as much a part of the country’s infrastructures as roads and the railways.
It needs to wake up and realise that you cannot build a better Britain as we emerge from the pandemic without a long-term plan for reforming social care