Budget Resolutions - Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately Conservative, Faversham and Mid Kent 6:07 pm, 14th March 2017

A few weeks ago I joined a Faversham care worker, Kim, on her rounds. When I joined her at 7.30 in the morning, she had already started washing her first client. That lovely lady needed Kim’s help to get up, get washed and dressed, and have breakfast. So many of us take such things for granted, but there is a time in life when people need help, especially if they suffer from disabilities, as she did.

I spent that morning with Kim because I wanted to see for myself the challenges presented by social care. In my constituency, we have an acute shortage of domiciliary care. Care agencies tell me that they simply cannot recruit enough staff to meet the demand—at least, not at the rates that they can pay. Age UK Faversham tells me that people are going without care who desperately need it, and the local hospitals tell me that at any time about a third of their patients would be better cared for somewhere else.

Kent County Council has made huge efforts to protect frontline care while efficiencies have been achieved, but in my part of Kent it seems that the care system is only just managing, and there are similar stories across the country. That is why, before the Budget, I asked the Chancellor if he could find extra money for social care. I know that I was one of many, and I am grateful that we have been heard. The Budget will give social care £2 billion more over the next three years, of which £l billion will be available in 2017-18. For Kent that means an extra £26 million this year, more than double what it is expecting to raise through the social care precept. That will make a real difference. Also welcome are the £100 million to fund more GPs at A&E departments—which, as we know, are a hospital pressure point—and the £300 million of extra capital funding for sustainability and transformation plans.

There is no escaping the fact—about which the OBR is very clear—that the need for health and social care will rise, and costs will rise with it. The number of over-85s is set to double in the next 15 years, and there are some worrying trends among much younger people—for instance, people in their 60s—who are living with complex life- limiting conditions. The money to care for those people has to come from somewhere, but it should not come from adding to the debt to be paid off by future generations, or from the tax changes that have been proposed by some Opposition Members, which have not been thought through and could result in reduced tax revenue to pay for the costs of care.

The best way to pay for the increasing costs of care is to have a strong and growing economy. I welcome the fact that, with its proposals for investment in infrastructure, skills and education, the Budget has boosting productivity at its core. However, we also need to adapt to changes in the nature of work that are already happening. As the Secretary of State said earlier, jobs are changing fast. About 60% of the jobs that today’s schoolchildren will do have not even been invented yet. More people are choosing to be self-employed or finding work in the gig economy. More businesses are moving online. The tax system needs to respond.

I fully recognise the extra risks and insecurities for the self-employed and entrepreneurs—I am married to one—and I hope that the Taylor report that is due in the autumn will address some of the insecurities of modern work, but there is an enormous imbalance between the contributions made by people in employment and those made by the self-employed, particularly when one adds in national insurance contributions paid by employers. Many business models have developed simply to take advantage of that tax differential and, in the process, the rapid rise in self-employment is eroding the tax base. That simply has to be addressed. We will all get old and may need care one day, so we all need to contribute to paying for that.

I look forward to the planned Green Paper on future social care funding. We need a funding system that means providers of care will invest in facilities and especially in the workforce, because the people who provide care are at the heart of this. It was such a privilege to spend time with Kim in Faversham and to see what she did for the people she cares for. We must ensure that no one has to worry whether they will get the care that they need, when they need it.