Dear Secretary of State,
Today in this edition of The Yorkshire Post, I write this open letter to you, urging you to tackle the crisis that is a blight on the lives of many people who need social care in this country.
I am taking the unprecedented step of bringing this letter to Westminster in person, so that I know that it reaches your department.
I appreciate that you are under extreme pressure at the moment and busy with a million issues. But care providers have tried for many years now to get reform to the top of the agenda, with no success.
We cannot wait any longer and, if it is the case, the Treasury must not be allowed to hold up changes that will have a huge impact upon people’s lives.
My previous letters to you have gone unanswered but I and the readers of The Yorkshire Post and indeed, many thousands of other people, deserve an answer to the question: When will you reform social care?
At the same time, I write to invite you once again to visit care providers in North Yorkshire to see for yourself the challenges facing the social care sector at this time.
The need for root and branch reform – social care’s 1948 moment, if you like – has been critical for many years. The Covid-19 pandemic found social care in a vulnerable position, starved of funding, with a staffing crisis and poor morale, trying to cope with rising demand for ever more complex care.
Some £8bn has been cut from social care spending since 2010 with the result that at least 1.5 million people in this country are now living 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.
The past 14 months has made that crisis much worse. The battle to keep people safe against an unknown and ever-changing enemy has taken a huge toll on the sector.
More than 32,000 people have died so far in care and nursing homes from Covid-19, each loss a tragedy. And there have been many challenges for people delivering care to those in their own homes. The impact that has had on those families and on care providers cannot and should not be underestimated. It has been brutal.
But aside from the human cost, care settings are now facing in some ways an even tougher battle, one for survival against financial ruin.
The soaring costs associated with, to name but a few: staffing levels to cope with the pandemic, extra PPE costs and insurance premiums, have exacerbated an already perilous situation for many.
Now they are also facing reduced occupancy levels, pushing many to the brink of survival. Is that really what social care deserves after 14 months of blood, sweat and tears fighting Covid-19 side by side with NHS doctors and nurses?
What it truly deserves is the long-promised reform that government after government has failed to deliver. When he was made Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised, on the steps of 10 Downing Street, to get social care done. He has repeated that promise since.
As a vital sector, we deserve to know when that reform will be delivered. As a starting point we need to see the following:
* 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, such as cancer and heart disease
* A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care
* Social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT.
Quite aside from the human and society benefits of reform, improvement of adult social care will undoubtedly bring great economic benefits too. At present social care contributes £46.2bn to the UK economy and employs 1.5 million (the NHS employs 1.3 million). This contribution would grow if proper investment and reform was put into the sector.
We now stand at a vital moment for social care. If it gets the reform it has been promised, hundreds of thousands of people will get the care they are currently denied and staff will get the recognition they have earned. The economy will get a boost from a properly-funded and economically viable social care sector.
If it doesn’t get that reform, thousands of care providers will go to the wall at a time when the country needs them most. The number of people not getting the care they need will rocket into the millions and thousands of jobs will be lost. The choice is there and the choice is stark.
The sector needs reform and it needs it now. Here is an opportunity for you and your Government to go down in history, as Bevan did with the NHS, as the administration that finally creates a properly-funded, sustainable and successful social care sector that this country craves and deserves.
The country awaits your answer, Mr Hancock: when will social care get the reform it needs?
Independent Care Group
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