Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the state of health and care for older people in England.
Our ageing population not only deserve good social care, they should be entitled to it, but the existing workforce are burnt out, underpaid and overworked.
As both Age UK and the Health and Social Care Select Committee highlight, workforce shortages are the primary issue facing our health and social care services, with more than 150,000 vacancies at present. The Select Committee said the Government has shown a “marked reluctance to act decisively”. I am worried that staff are being left to pick up the pieces of a system that has been neglected.
Despite repeated promises to fix social care, the Chancellor has delayed reforms for two years and is instead asking councils to increase taxes on working people to plug funding gaps.
In my view, we need to put social care at the heart of a modernised welfare state as an essential part of our economic infrastructure. I support a long-term plan for reform to put social care on an equal footing with the NHS, improve access, and ensure every older and disabled person gets the right support when and where they need it.
For me, this means building towards a National Care Service, locally delivered but underpinned by high national standards. We need to end the workforce crisis, recruiting and retaining more social care workers by introducing better rights at work, decent standards, fair pay and proper training with opportunity for progression. This includes moving towards professionalising the social care workforce, giving them the recognition and professional standing they deserve.
We must also recognise and support the work of unpaid carers, prioritising their wellbeing. This includes access to proper respite breaks, the right to request flexible working, and ensuring carer’s assessments are promoted and identify the needs of carers so they can access appropriate support.
At its best, social care can enable people to live flourishing, independent lives. But this is far from the reality in Britain today. I assure you I shall continue to call for reforms that improve the quality and standards of social care for everyone who uses it.
Thank you once again to all who have contacted me about this issue.