Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:34 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care) 6:34 pm, 24th April 2019

We have laid out our proposals and we said how we would fund them. As I say, most of what we are debating today relates to the short-term crisis. Once we got past the short-term crisis, I think the hon. Gentleman would have difficulty. There has been talk about involving the public in this. At the moment, the public are faced with the type of care that my hon. Friends have discussed and debated and with the care staff and workforce in the situation that they are in. At no point, in the middle of a crisis, would we be saying to the public, “Use the value of your property. Let’s go for this type of funding or that type of funding.” That is cloud cuckoo land. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle talking about that absolutely crucial example. What would he say to those people who need care? That is the question for him to answer.

Councils need sustained investment that undoes the damage of years of austerity and cuts, but the Government’s choice—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is sitting there smirking at me at the moment. The Government have made a choice to pursue ideological cuts to council budgets that have seen £7 billion lost from adult social care spending since 2010. Let us think about what that has meant: 400,000 fewer people getting publicly funded social care between 2010 and 2015; 100,000 fewer people getting taxpayer-funded social care in the last four years alone; and 90 people a day dying before they receive the public social care for which they have applied.

It is not simply the most disadvantaged who are losing out either. Many of those who are having to foot the bill for their care are being exploited by a broken care system where private care providers can act with impunity and where vindictive care homes can evict older people whose families dare to complain about their standard of care. That is a very serious matter, as we discussed in the debate, given the level of closures of care homes and the loss of care home beds we have had, as touched on by my hon. Friend Toby Perkins. Dr Wollaston also talked about being in a part of the country where it is impossible to get care. That is the position we are in. If care home owners can evict older people, that is a drastic situation. Opportunistic home care agencies are overcharging vulnerable people for care visits that are too short and endangering their health by forcing staff to work when they are sick. We heard about the care staff who are too scared to take time off sick.

I want to make clear to hon. Members the human impact of not getting the right amount of support, although those who have bothered to attend this debate—I am thinking particularly of Government Members—might have heard some examples. Simply put, it means people going without the support that they need to live with basic dignity. Not having needs met means going unwashed and undressed. It can mean waiting for hours to go to the toilet because no help is available. It can mean a person going thirsty because there is no one to pour them a glass of water and going hungry because there is no one to prepare them a proper meal. This is the experience of many thousands of older people who are going without care or who have insufficient care. I am glad that many hon. Members have talked about a care visit being the only contact that many older or vulnerable people have in the day.

The consequences of inadequate support in the community for working-age people are also horrifying. In recent months, we have seen many reports of vulnerable autistic people and people with learning disabilities left to languish for years in private in-patient units—vulnerable, detained, secluded and neglected in long-stay units. These units, many of them private, are funded by the NHS at great cost to the taxpayer because councils simply have not been given the money to move people from these units to be supported closer to home. My hon. Friend Dr Drew and Norman Lamb both raised that issue. I have stood at this Dispatch Box before and called this a national scandal, and I make no apology for doing so again.

Back to Government promises: after Winterbourne View in 2011, the Government promised to close inappropriate units for good within three years—by 2014. It did not happen. Indeed, eight years later, there are still 2,260 people detained in hospital settings when they need not be there. The number of adults trapped in these units has fallen by only a fraction. Worse still, the number of children in these units has actually increased.

Where this Conservative Government have done nothing, Labour will act: rather than years’ more cuts, we will invest £8 billion in social care; rather than 90 people a day dying waiting for care, we will provide more people with the support they need; rather than care staff being pushed to the brink, we will pay them a real living wage; and rather than more delay, we will build a national care service that supports older and disabled people when they need it. This is our message to people across country, young and old, desperate for care and support: a Labour Government will give you the support you need and deserve. That is why I urge Members to support our motion tonight.