The government has failed to detail long-promised proposals to reform social care in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May. This is despite criticism coming from care groups, charities, and politicians.
Still nothing to announce
Measures to address the long-standing issue of social care funding and reform were not included, but the Queen did say proposals will be brought forward as she set out the government’s legislative agenda. Introducing the speech, Boris Johnson said:
Later in the year we will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care so that every person receives the dignity and security they deserve.
No further detail on the content of these reforms was given.
The time has come for care
Care groups, charities and politicians have been long calling for a plan to “fix” the sector, which the prime minister promised in his first speech after being elected in July 2019. Last month, 26 signatories wrote to Johnson urging him to set out his commitment to reform in the Queen’s Speech.
They called for the sector to have its “its 1948 moment” – referring to the founding of the NHS – which would establish its “long-term and sustainable future”.
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said earlier on 11 May that he hoped a cap to avoid catastrophic care costs would be announced in the Queen’s Speech, calling this “an incredible worry for people”. In 2005, Hunt co-authored a policy book that contained plans to replace the NHS with an American-style insurance system.
A briefing note from Number 10, accompanying the speech, said the adult social care sector has never been under so much pressure and there is “more work to do” to ensure everyone receives high-quality, joined-up care.
The official document said the government will engage with staff about how best to support the 1.5 million-strong workforce and ensure that reform is “informed by diverse perspectives”. Demand for social care is “rapidly growing”, with an ageing population and increased care needs in working age adults, it said.
Care costs are unpredictable and can be very high, which can make it difficult for people to prepare. There is normally no way to predict a person’s future care costs and not all the risk is shared across society.
Labour’s 2019 manifesto contained a commitment to build a ‘National Care Service’:
Social care is a vital public service. Much like the NHS, social care’s contribution to our society should be a source of national pride. The current social care system is in crisis and not fit for purpose. Too many people are going without the care they need. Failures in the system are putting great pressure on unpaid carers and on the people who need to receive care.
In 2020, the outgoing UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis called on Keir Starmer to support a “new deal for all our public services” which would include care staff.
In April 2021, Care England co-signed an open letter to Johnson which read:
The current system leaves many families struggling to survive when one of the family members needs social care. Each year thousands of people face losing their home and all their family assets, and many older people who have a family member needing care, face the prospect of financial hardship in later life.
According to Age UK, 1.6 million people aged 65 and over do not receive the care and support they need and this could grow to 2.1 million people by 2030. Similarly, there is also unmet demand for people with learning disabilities; ADASS reports that in the last four years there has been a 10% increase in the numbers of younger people who require social care.
Over many years the Government has failed to heed the Low Pay Commission’s call for a national living wage, and because of the way in which some services are commissioned, it leaves thousands of people in our committed, skilled and dedicated workforce, facing the prospect of delivering essential services at below the minimum wage. As we come out of the pandemic, if we can develop a clear funding strategy for social care, we can also develop a range of careers that will provide high-quality care and support local economic development.
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