The Government has been accused of paying lip service to social care in today’s Queen’s Speech, betraying hundreds of thousands of older and vulnerable people who cannot get the care they need, care campaigners say.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) has expressed its fury that plans for social care reform were once again delayed as the Government set out its plans this afternoon, and is calling for plans to be set out immediately and the Government to be held accountable for their delivery.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “How dare the Government delay reform of social care yet again? Older and vulnerable people have been betrayed and reform has been pushed down the road to some indeterminate time.
“Yes, social care was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech but in reality, the Government was just paying lip service to the reform that is now so long overdue.
“If the Government is so committed to reforming social care, as the Prime Minister and other ministers keep telling us they are then we need to see it happen. We need some accountability and the Government to be held to account if it fails to deliver.
In the Queen’s Speech the Government said it would bring forward proposals on social care reform.
But Mr Padgham said that wasn’t good enough. “We have had too many promises and pledges, we now need to see action,” he added.
“We need the Government to set out what it plans to do and set strict deadlines as to when it is going to do it, so that it is accountable to the hundreds of thousands of people who are being failed by this Government today and every day.”
Before the Queen’s Speech, the ICG wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to put the welfare and happiness of people before financial constraints and make social care reform a priority.
In the ICG’s letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Padgham says 1.5m people are now living without the care they need after £8bn was cut from social care budgets since 2010-11. There are more than 100,000 staff vacancies in the sector.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK and Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) said: “After an awful lot of dithering the Government has finally nailed its colours to the mast by formally committing to social care reform this year. The question now is how good the Government’s proposals will be, not whether there will be any at all, so this is an important step forward for the millions of older and disabled people and carers who deserve so much better than what’s often on offer to them today.
“Ministers have made it clear that they see a cap on sky high care costs as the centrepiece of their reforms, because it is so evidently unfair for anyone to be financially ruined by long term care bills. However, this is not the only unfairness in how care operates today, and it would be a bizarre outcome if we gave more protection to home owners, while leaving those with fewer assets to the current underfunded system. This would especially disadvantage sick and disabled adults who have just as much right to decent care as older people. So as well as bringing forward some kind of cap, there is no avoiding the need for the Government to invest billions more into care – topping council budgets back up again after having allowed them to fall so disastrously over the last decade.
“The final essential element is the need for the Government to professionalise the care workforce, giving care workers the terms and conditions, and career structure, that should rightfully be theirs’ after their magnificent performance during the pandemic. It’s high time we ended the situation in which care staff are constantly the poor relations of their equivalents in the NHS.”
“If the Government brings forward a package of reforms of scale and ambition, backed up by the funding required, we will be able to hold our heads up high again as a nation, consigning our current, shamefully neglected social care system to the past, where it belongs. If this happens older and disabled people, and their carers, will be able to breathe more easily, confident that they will get the help they know they need.”
Social Care Institute for Excellence Chief Executive Kathryn Smith, says: “It’s hugely disappointing that a social care bill hasn’t been put forward today as a matter of urgency. It was good to hear that proposals will be brought forward in due course. However, today – and the budget in March – have been just the latest in many missed opportunities over the last few years to sort out social care reform; and time is ticking. In March, we and others called for the Government to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care before the summer parliamentary recess; the Queen’s Speech was an opportunity to do that.
“The sector is seeing so many innovative new initiatives, from the use of co-production to strengths-based approaches. But to fulfil its potential the sector needs a sustained increase in funding, to stabilise the care system, particularly with the impact of Covid-19, and to bring the long-term reform that’s so desperately needed. Local councils commission many of the services that people who draw on services, and carers, rely on. Local leaders from across the political divide have also urged the Government to ‘fix social care’. We agree with them that any continued failure to provide long-term reform would be a disappointment.”
The Independent Car Group is calling for a promise of urgent reform backed by proper deadlines. It wants:
- A root and branch overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded
- NHS care and social care to be merged and managed either locally or nationally
- Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation or National Insurance
- Dementia treated like other high priority illnesses, like cancer and heart disease
- A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
- Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT.