Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I congratulate all the Members who have made their excellent maiden speeches in the House today?
Across the country there is a clear and urgent need to reform the social care system. A vast unsustainable gap exists between the current funding levels and the reality on the ground. Local authorities, including Tory-run councils such as Somerset, are stretched to breaking point, facing impossible daily decisions to cut care packages or raise the threshold for qualification for support. The Local Government Association estimates that the shortfall between funding and need in social care is £1.5 billion in the current financial year, with that set to grow to £3.5 billion by 2024-25.
The Government funding announcement on social care is playing a very disingenuous game with the public across the country who rely on social care. An announcement that falls far short of meeting the current funding gap is simply not remotely close to a solution to the long-problems of social care. The failures of this Government on social care can be seen in the inbox of every Member of this House. I see it in the case of my constituent who is being made ill by the anxiety provoked by the care home bills she has received for her mother’s care, in the distress of dementia patients forced to sell their homes and in the anguish of the sibling of an autistic man who is living in supported accommodation where the staff are too busy, poorly paid and undertrained to safely manage the behaviour of other residents. When we talk about social care, we are talking about individual lives—about my constituents, and millions like them, whose present day-to-day is intolerable.
The Tories offer nothing but prevarication and delay. During the previous Parliament, the Government delayed publishing the social care Green Paper eight times, and they went into the general election offering only a vague commitment to cross-party talks. Yet extensive cross-party work has already been done by Andrew Dilnot and Select Committees in both Houses. The menu of options available to deliver a social care system in which everyone who needs support can live with dignity is clear: there is a broad consensus that care should be free at the point of need and there is a clear understanding that additional taxation must be raised to fund it. There is simply no excuse for the disgraceful delay in bringing forward detailed proposals. The message it sends is that the Tories just do not care about the daily misery that so many people are experiencing right now because social care is broken.
Finally, the Government must address the scandal of their utter failure to deliver the transforming care programme. Winterbourne View should never have happened, but once that disgraceful scandal had come to light, it should never, ever have happened again. Yet, on this Secretary of State’s watch, horrific abuses took place at Whorlton Hall and the NHS continues to pay for patients to be placed in the private hospital at St Andrew’s in Northampton, which was recently failed again by the Care Quality Commission. Autistic people and people with learning disabilities should be able to live with dignity in homes, not hospitals—in regulated community provision, supported by well-trained, properly paid staff.
The Government have a decade of failure on social care under their belt. They simply cannot be trusted. We will hold them to account on behalf of our most vulnerable constituents, who desperately need a radically different approach.