Pledge follows campaigner’s visit to Westminster

A Government minister has promised to visit care on the frontline following a visit by a campaigner battling to get the Government to tackle a crisis in the way we look after older and vulnerable people.

The Chair of provider organisation the Independent Care Group (ICG), Mike Padgham, met Care Minister Helen Whately in Westminster over the challenges facing social care.

And during the visit, the Minister promised to visit Mr Padgham’s home county of North Yorkshire, when her diary allowed.

Mr Padgham said after the meeting: “We didn’t expect all the solutions straight away and there are no quick fixes, we are going to have to keep up the pressure. But she has agreed to visit Yorkshire, when her diary allows, to see the challenges we face, which is positive.

“She also listened to our concern that providers are facing a battle for survival against financial ruin following the pandemic.

“Many, including those who took in discharged Covid-19 patients from hospitals, are now facing dire financial difficulties because their occupancy rates have not recovered and they have been battered by other soaring costs associated with Covid-19, including higher staffing costs, extra PPE costs and high insurance premiums.

“The Minister shared our passion for staff within social care to have a proper career path and we stressed that those workers needed to be rewarded properly for the job they do.

“She also listened to our plea for care providers to be made low or zero-rated for VAT, again to alleviate some of the financial pressures on them during the current crisis.

“We were also able to discuss issues facing homecare providers and the challenges faced by those who look after people in their own home, a central plank in the Government’s care policy.

“Looking further ahead we were able to share with her the urgency of overall reform of the sector, which we feel should include NHS and social care being merged so that only one body is responsible for cradle to the grave care.”

In a document from the ICG, Mr Padgham set out a blueprint for reform.

It reminded the Minister that £8bn has been cut from social care spending since 2010 with the result that at least 1.5m people are now living in this country without the care they need. A shortage of staff means care settings are struggling to provide the care that they can offer – there are at least 120,000 vacancies in the care sector on any one day.

As a starting point the ICG wants to see:

•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.

“I am sure the Minister is aware of all the issues and we didn’t go into this meeting expecting any overnight transformations. But I would describe the meeting as positive and constructive and I got the impression that the Minister cared, in particular about maintaining good quality care for the future,” Mr Padgham added. “This was just a start. We hope the Minister will come to visit Yorkshire and that we can keep up the dialogue. In the 30+ years I have been working in social care, I probably found the Minister the most receptive of any I have previously met.

“There is a long way to go before we have achieved the level of social care reform that the country needs and we must all keep up the pressure on the Government to move on this and to bring forward proposals soon.”