Happy New Year and welcome to a new decade! Before delving into the policies and politics surrounding social care, we want to give some recognition to all those care workers who are working today or have worked over this holiday period. The work they do, despite difficult circumstances, is amazing! As we enter a new decade, it is important that action is taken to reform the social care system so that it addresses the needs and dignity of those who receive care as well as those who deliver it.
The last decade has seen the same familiar arguments about social care come and go, alongside reports and legislation, and yet it is clear to all that a long-term solution has not been found. The problems are now well-defined and we know what needs to be changed. We need the new Conservative government to Be the Government of Social Care and to approach social care with the clarity of vision and the determination to take action that the sector demands. To:
- Respect and recognise the value of social care
- Commit to an adequate 3-5 year funding settlement now (£1bn a year is simply not enough) to protect the provision of care, as part of the start of a longer-term funding solution
- Have a long-term vision for social care shaped by those who use it now, and in the future
- Develop a professionally skilled workforce, properly valued, better paid, with more training and development
- Create an innovation transformation fund
The Queen’s Speech was not the festive miracle social care needed, but while there is a long way to go, there are some grounds for hope.
Social care got a brief mention in the Queen’s Speech:
“My Ministers will seek cross-party consensus on proposals for long term reform of social care. They will ensure that the social care system provides everyone with the dignity and security they deserve and that no one who needs care has to sell their home to pay for it.”
The cross-party approach is a reiteration of the government’s manifesto promise – which during the election campaign was prefaced with a 100-day countdown (now 81 days and counting). However, the commitment to ‘ensure that the social care system provides’ for everyone with the notion of dignity for all is a potential shift from the previous iterations of reform. Previously there had been a focus on older people only – this commitment potentially opens the door to a recognition of the need of vulnerable working age people as well as older people. Finally, the promise that ‘no one who needs care has to sell their home to pay for it’ is a reiteration of previous promises.
There were also references to measures to ‘encourage flexible working, to introduce the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers and to help people save for later life’ along with a commitment to increasing the National Living Wage – both of which will have an impact on the social care workforce which the government needs to take into consideration.
The time for action is now. The National Care Forum is calling on the public to embrace the agenda for change for social care and to hold the government to account. We need the government to not only meet their promises but to exceed them. They are not ambitious enough. We must make it glaringly apparent to all who now hold power: social care matters to us all, and we are a nation that can wait no longer for reform.