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As I was preparing for this debate, I looked at last year’s debate and, as other hon. Members have said, it was like we have not moved on at all. We are repeating the same arguments, and nothing has really changed. What has changed, however, is that we are seeing increased demand for social care, whether domiciliary or residential, but local authorities’ ability to deliver that support is decreasing because of financial pressures.
Demand is continuing to rise. Age UK says that 1.5 million people aged 65 or over have an unmet social care need and believes that that could rise to 2.1 million by 2030 if the current approach continues. Last year, over half of the 1.32 million new requests for social care resulted in no services being provided. In my constituency, Age UK tells me that 3,012 older people have unmet care needs, and that 2,517 older people are providing the care that family members require. Of course, we must also recognise that thousands of unpaid care workers are providing support to people in their homes, and we must never forget that. I salute them for carrying out that essential work.
I will reiterate some of the points covered in the previous debate, because they remain central to this debate on social care. We need more money. We do not need the drip feed of a 2% increase in council tax, which in constituencies with a low council tax base, such as mine, will not produce anything near the money we need, compounding inequality and injustice. We need a substantial increase, and Age UK estimates that an increase of £8 billion is required over the next two years to stabilise the current system while we look at what will be provided in the future.
We need to look at the market for social care providers. The market is fragmented at the moment in both residential and domiciliary care, and most authorities have seen providers fail in both areas, meaning that they need to step in as an emergency measure to ensure that people get the help they need. We cannot continue with a market based substantially on price competition, because local authorities are forced to look for the lowest bids. We need quality services that deliver the things that people require and deserve. I would like to see more directly provided social care services, because that gives us control.
We must now develop a workforce strategy for social care. We have talked about that a lot in relation to the NHS plan and the future workforce strategy, but we need to look at it here, too. The social care workforce is predominantly female. They provide the most personal and intimate care to the people we love, and we must recognise the value of their work. They need proper pay. They need professional registration, which people working in the sector are considering. They need improved training and development if we are to recruit and retain the staff we need. We must put an end to carers travelling in their own time, to zero-hours contracts, and to 15-minute visits, which all of us would agree are completely outrageous.