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Charties Warn Rishi Sunak Not To Backtrack On Social Care Promise Four Years On

An alliance of over 60 of England’s leading charities is calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak not to backtrack on the Government’s promise to fix the crisis in social care after four years and no real progress.

On 24th July 2019, the new Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and pledged to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.

In his first speech as Prime Minister, his successor Rishi Sunak emphasized that the “mandate his party earned in 2019” under the leadership of Boris Johnson was also his mandate and vowed to “deliver on its [manifesto] promise.”

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) is concerned that four years later, social care reform has stalled once again, leaving millions of older and disabled people, and their families struggling to access the care they need.

U-turns, delays and watering down

The adult social care charging reforms –including changes to the means test and £86,000 cap on personal care costs – that were due to be implemented from October 2023 have been postponed until October 2025, after the next general election.

The new Health and Social Care Levy, which was supposed to help fund social care reform and improve care, has been cancelled.

And in April 2023, the Government announced that workforce training, qualifications and wellbeing would be backed by £250 million, just half of the £500 million originally promised for this purpose in 2021. A promised £300 million to transform housing options was also replaced by £102 million for smaller in-home adaptations.

The state of social care
The government backsliding on their promise to fix social care is deeply concerning given that more people are asking for support, but fewer are getting it; workforce vacancies are at an all-time high and public satisfaction with social care is at its lowest ever.

Requests for support from both older people, and particularly working age adults, have increased significantly to around 1.98 million. Yet the number of people receiving long-term care has fallen to 818,000 in 2021/22, a 55,000 drop from 2015/16. Older people have been worst affected, with numbers receiving long-term care down to 529,000 in 2021/22– a fall of 23,000 in just one year.

According to Skills for Care, there were 152,000 vacant posts in social care in 2022/23 compared to 111,000 in 2019/20 when the social care promise was made – a 37% increase.

Based on current trends, the number of social care posts will be required to increase by around 445,000 to around 2.23 million by 2035.

Analysis by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund shows only 14% of the British public are satisfied with social care services.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK and co-chair of the CSA says:
“Since Boris Johnson pledged to fix social care four years ago we have all been on a wild goose chase as one Government policy after another has been announced with a fanfare, only to be subsequently shelved, diluted or dropped. The transformational change in care provision that older people need to see and that was promised to them is yet to materialise, though with our ageing population it is needed more than ever.

“The Prime Minister stood for office on the 2019 Conservative manifesto and says he wants to abide by it, so rather than backtracking on social care reform he needs to stand by his word and drive forward with it.”

Jackie O’Sullivan, Director of communication, advocacy and activism at Mencap and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance said:
“Despite the announcement of a long-term workforce plan for the NHS, no such plan is in place for adult social care. There are over 150,000 vacancies in the sector – more than in the NHS – with staff leaving to earn higher wages in other sectors.

“The number of vacancies has risen by 37% since the government promised to fix social care in 2019. It beggars’ belief that the government has halved funding to support the training, skills and wellbeing for the social care workforce.

“Saying that social care is in urgent need of reform is easy, but delivering on their promise has proved to be beyond the Government. Rishi Sunak must show the leadership necessary to address workforce pay, timely access to support and the underfunding of the system for working aged disabled adults and older people, before it’s too late.”

Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance
“It is deeply disappointing that two Prime Ministers’ promises to fix social care “once and for all” and the reform we desperately need, has not yet been delivered.

“Families are providing more unpaid care than ever before and many are at breaking point as the pressure on them becomes too much. Because of a lack of care, many have no choice but to reduce or give up paid employment entirely because of a lack of care, and their health which is already poorer is put under even more strain.

This is having a devastating impact on their work, finances, health and relationships.

“Care users, families and providers deserve more than empty promises. The government must demonstrate its commitment to older and disabled people, and their families by taking immediate action to tackle the social care crisis.”