In an Opening pared back of much of its usual pomp, the monarch set out the government’s priorities for the year ahead - “National recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous.”
Legislation promised included laws to tackle election fraud which will require voters to present photo ID at polling booths, to “innovate and embrace technology” in the NHS and to launch an advanced research facility.
But social care, which Boris Johnson pledged to “fix once and for all” on the steps of Downing Street in 2019 was only given a brief mention in the speech, with little detail of promised reforms.
Reading from the pre-written speech, the Queen said: “Measures will be brought forward to support the health and well being of the nation, including to tackle obesity and improve mental health. Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward.”
The speech marked the Queen’s first public appearance since the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh last month.
Campaigners are calling for social care to become free at the point of need in a similar style model to the NHS, with an estimated 17,000 people each year currently selling their homes to pay for care.
Some 400,000 people live in care and nursing homes, with a further 640,000 being looked after in their own homes.
According to the Health Foundation spending per person on adult social care fell in real terms by around 12 per cent between 2010 and 2019.
Speaking in a debate after the speech, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “It is unforgivable that there is no clear plan to fix social care. No legislation. No new funding. No details. No timescale.”
Scarborough care home owner Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, which has long lobbied for social care to be free at the point of need, said: “I was quite naive. I believed Boris Johnson when he said he was going to do something.
“I’m very disappointed. We musn’t give up. They need to put a timetable on it - they can sit and weekends, and get legislation through. Put a deadline and if you don’t meet it, resign.
On Boris Johnson’s regular Thursday evening appearances last Spring to clap for carers during the height of the pandemic, Mr Padgham said: “It’s a kick in the teeth. It’s meaningless.”
Fiona Carragher, Director of Research and Influencing at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Vague promises are no longer enough. The pandemic has exposed the cracks in our failing social care system. It is time for the government to take the next vital steps and honour their promises with a concrete plan for the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.”
A briefing note from Number 10, accompanying the speech, said the Government will engage with staff about how best to support the 1.5 million-strong workforce and ensure that reform is “informed by diverse perspectives”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman denied yesterday that Mr Johnson had misled the country when he said at that time that he had already prepared a “clear plan” to fix the system.