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Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care) 4:14 pm, 25th February 2020

Indeed I do. I am looking forward to the establishment of the new all-party group on young carers, but it is tragic, in a way, that we have to meet in new all-party groups to try to find some way of taking the burden from those young carers.

As local authorities struggle to fund social care, an increasing number of people are forced to take on the financial burden themselves. Some 143,000 people are currently faced with catastrophic costs of over £100,000 for their own care. Over the past three years, 9,000 people have asked their local authority for help after completely depleting their own savings to pay for their care. This means that people are having to sell their homes that they may have lived in for their entire lives to fund the care that they need. The Prime Minister has promised to stop this situation, but with no plan and no proposals for how he achieves that, it is likely that many more people will be put in this position going forward. The Government could drastically reduce the number of people faced with catastrophic costs for their care if they set a lifetime cap on care costs. The Government proposed a cap in 2013. They legislated for it, but dropped it in 2016. That cap would have gone some way towards reducing the number of people now faced with catastrophic social care costs. The Government’s own impact assessment showed that by this year 37,000 people would have benefited from the cap if it had been introduced in 2016.

But reform is not just about protecting housing wealth. It is important to do that, but reform also has to offer a solution to the people who are currently stuck in bed all day unable to get themselves dressed, or needlessly stuck in hospital. The solution that Labour favours is to offer free personal care to ensure that everyone is supported with the basic tasks regardless of their ability to pay. Free personal care was introduced by a Labour-led Government in Scotland in 2002, and it is ensuring that more people there receive publicly funded social care. Free personal care has been backed by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and by charities and think-tanks.

We believe that it is vital that we push forward with this reform because progress to date has been far too slow. In October 2018, the Secretary of State talked about:

“The adult social care Green Paper, which will be published later this year”.—[Official Report, 17 October 2018;
Vol. 647, c. 736.]

In 2019, we were told that there would be a Green Paper “that summer” that would set out the future of social care, but it never arrived. It was delayed twice before being dropped completely. Seven months ago, the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and said that he had a plan to fix the social care crisis. There is still no sign of it. Perhaps this plan is in the same state as the promised Green Paper. The Government said that they would instigate cross-party talks on social care within the first 100 days of the election. We are now 75 days on and we have yet to hear from the Government on their proposals.

Labour is the only party, as it stands today, with clear plans for the future of social care. Labour’s plan for social care would close the funding gap, cap care costs, and introduce free personal care and improved pay and working conditions for care staff. In contrast, we have no action from the Government on social care. Councils are reliant on piecemeal funding announcements and raising ever higher levels of council tax, yet these measures leave them struggling to meet demand. So Labour’s message to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State is clear: they need to put in the extra investment needed to stabilise the care system, introduce free personal care, bring back a cap on care costs, and develop a plan to improve the pay and working conditions of the care workforce. I want to make it clear that Labour will be happy to sit down with Ministers and talk them through our proposals, as the Prime Minister does not appear—at this point in time, at least—to have any plans of his own. I urge hon. Members to vote for our motion tonight to ensure that the Government have to finally meet their pledge to fix social care.