Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about adult social care reform.
For too long social care has lacked the priority and funding it deserves. A decade of cuts to local government has resulted in £8 billion being lost from adult social care budgets and too many people have been left to cope without the support they need; 400,000 older and disabled people are on council waiting lists for care, and there are more than 100,000 staff vacancies across the sector.
The Government recently published a White Paper outlining its proposals to reform adult social care in England. This follows a decision by Ministers in September to raise taxes to pay for reforms to the sector.
There are aspects of the Government’s White Paper that I welcome, such as improving housing options for older and disabled people, and the potential for technology to improve standards of care. However, in my view, there are two central flaws to the Government’s approach: a failure to deal with the immediate pressures facing social care; and a failure to set out the long-term vision we need to deliver a care system that is fit for the future.
Improving access to care is vital to deliver a fundamental shift in the focus of support towards prevention and early intervention. But the White Paper has no plan for tackling waiting lists in care, which is piling more pressure on families and the NHS. This has the potential to be made worse by a lack of support for the care workforce. Disappointingly, the White Paper includes no long-term strategy to recruit the care workers we need to meet growing demand, or to deliver staff the good pay, training and working conditions they so desperately need.
Instead, Ministers have legislated for a tax hike on working people that will not deal with the problems in social care now and will not stop people having to sell their homes to pay for their care. And changes to the cap on lifetime contributions to care costs will leave people with low levels of wealth exposed to very high care costs, while wealthier people will be protected.
I urge the Government to think again. We need a long-term vision to put social care on an equal footing with the NHS and ensure all older and disabled people get the right support when and where they need it.