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Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:57 pm on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price Conservative, Thurrock 4:57 pm, 25th February 2020

I feel like I am in groundhog day. It is approximately two years since I responded to a very similar debate secured by Barbara Keeley. It is disappointing that we are still debating the very same issues that we were then. Of course, there has been much water under the bridge since then in our broader politics in that time, but in respect of social care, to coin a phrase, nothing has changed. The questions we need to settle are exactly the same as they were then. I say very gently that with Brexit done and with a majority Government, there is no excuse for continuing to kick this can down the road. It is time that we genuinely took action.

At the heart of this question, we need to establish to what extent the cost of care should be met by the individual and by taxpayers. We need to establish a consensus on the balance between those two. From my perspective, it is not fair that at the moment that cost is met almost entirely by individuals. Equally, it would be unfair for it all to be met by taxpayers when people have some assets. We therefore need to settle that question properly. I would also gently say that our politics has not been entirely honest about that. It is worth reminding the House that at the moment only £14,250 of capital is protected. As the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South mentioned, that means those with very long-term care costs, particularly those who suffer from dementia, can face catastrophically high bills. There are, therefore, very strong arguments for a cap.

There are other reasons why we have to grip this issue now. As the hon. Lady mentioned, local authorities cannot plan their long-term finances. That also brings a real threat to financial stability within local councils. It is fair to acknowledge the challenges within the care sector, too. Many providers are finding the marketplace challenging, not least because of workforce challenges, but also because local authorities are insisting on paying low rates for residential care. That brings with it an additional injustice—people who are deemed able to pay for their care find themselves paying higher rates for the same product than local authorities do for those who do not pay for their care. I think that is a major injustice in the system.