Government turmoil is a setback for social care reform - Mike Padgham

An explosive week for the Government has thrown everything into turmoil. Already in crisis, the care of our oldest and most vulnerable must now wait at least until we have another new Prime Minister. Only then will we know if new leadership finally brings the reform and funding we need.

In the meantime, social care has already been one of the early losers from the changes to economic policy that recent days have witnessed.

Once again, hundreds of thousands of people who rely on care and the 1.6m who can’t get care are to be the fall guys as financial cutbacks and delays are proposed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Health and Social Care Levy, funded through an increase in National Insurance, has been scrapped and there has been no talk of any replacement funding. It would have provided much-needed funding for social care over the next three years.

New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has in the past supported social care reform. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireNew Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has in the past supported social care reform. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has in the past supported social care reform. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Then this week we learned that changes aimed at helping older and vulnerable adults meet the cost of their care are to be put back by at least a year. The changes, including a more generous means-test and a lifetime cap on care costs of £86,000, were due to come into effect in October next year but they are to be delayed a further year because councils do not have the resources to implement them.

Asked by the media for my thoughts on these cuts and delays I described them as more cruel betrayals of vulnerable people who deserve better. It does feel like that because the silent thousands who benefit from social care and those who provide it have been very patient for reform and better funding.

For more than 30 years we have been calling for a better deal. In 1997, Tony Blair promised reform because he didn’t want children growing up in a country where people had to sell their home to pay for care.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, Mr Blair, but children born in 1997 are now 25 and they have grown up in a country where far too many people do have to sell their home to get the care they need. It is nothing short of a scandal.

A report by the body that inspects social care provision, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), described health and social care as being in ‘gridlock’ and said too often people cannot access the care they need, capacity is falling and staff are leaving the sector.

It blamed historical underinvestment and a lack of reward for the social care workforce. None of this can be any surprise, given the plight of social care. Those 30 years of neglect and under-funding has left social care in crisis, with Covid-19, chronic staff shortages and the cost-of-living situation turning things critical.

Care and nursing homes are closing and homecare providers are handing back undeliverable contracts. There are 165,000 job vacancies in the sector.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We can end that gridlock with more funding for the sector which would help us to recruit more staff to provide the care that is needed.

What feels like the biggest betrayal is that our new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has in the past supported social care reform.

Mr Hunt recognised, when he was Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, that social care needed an extra £7bn a year just to stand still. He said then that the £7bn would be “a starting point for a wider series of reforms”.

We have written to him, asking him to stand by those words, to spare social care from the cuts that are killing the sector and to urgently begin funding reform.

Mike Padgham is chairman of the Independent Care Group.