The system is unstable, unfair and in need of reform. As well as tackling immediate public health challenges, Rishi Sunak should show there is a clear path forward hereby Charles Tallack / March 9, 2020 / Leave a comment
On his first day as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all.” This was welcome, as reform is long overdue. But eight months on, we are still awaiting a concrete plan. The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto stated “one condition” for reform—that no one should be forced to sell their home to pay for care.
Such concern among politicians is nothing new. Since 1997, when Tony Blair announced that he didn’t want children growing up in a country where pensioners are forced out of their homes, we’ve seen two green papers, four white papers, various consultations and five independent commissions. What is new is the growing acknowledgement of the seriousness of the crisis and consensus on the need for a solution. But what might that look like?
On 11th March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will present his annual budget. With the unusual circumstances surrounding his recent appointment, growth forecast downgrades, and uncertainty around the coronavirus, there is much to focus on besides social care. But the budget should be an opportunity for the government to at least signal its intentions, putting forward a road map for the coming Spending Review which will determine budgets for 2021/22 and beyond. To be viable, the plan must deliver on two major fronts: stabilising the current system, which remains at risk of collapse, and addressing the inherent unfairness which leaves many older people facing catastrophic care costs.
Most urgent is stabilising the system. As a result of cuts to local authority budgets since 2010, there has been a squeeze on the amount that LAs can pay social care providers, leading to more and more care homes going out of business. Levels of access have also fallen. People are increasingly going without the care they need, with unpaid carers—family and friends—often taking the strain. Additional funding announced in September last year doesn’t cover the current level of unmet need, let alone address future demand from further growth in the numbers of older people.
A further threat to the stability of the system is growing staff shortages. Despite doing immensely important work under emotionally and physically demanding conditions, 30 per cent of staff in social care are paid the…