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Queen’s Speech - Debate (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:12 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Greengross Baroness Greengross Crossbench 3:12 pm, 9th January 2020

My Lords, in my brief remarks today I will address three issues which are of major importance in the fields of health, social care and the way we meet carers’ needs. I declare my interest in the International Longevity Centre UK and the ILC Global Alliance as entered in the register.

In the gracious Speech we learned that

“Steps will be taken to grow and support the National Health Service’s workforce and a new visa will ensure qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals have fast-track entry to the United Kingdom.”

It is vital that workforce shortages within the NHS are addressed. According to projections by the Nuffield Trust in 2019, there is a current shortage of one in 12 NHS staff. However, we also need to see continued commitments to prevention along the life course to ease pressures on the NHS, as outlined in the NHS long-term plan. New research by ILC-UK has found that across better-off countries in 2017 alone, 27.1 million years were lived with disability due to largely preventable diseases. That number is projected to increase by 17% in the next 25 years if we do not prioritise prevention across the life course. That is an imperative.

We also heard in the gracious Speech that the Government will

“seek cross-party consensus on proposals for long term reform of social care. They will ensure that the social care system provides everyone with the dignity and security they deserve and that no one who needs care has to sell their home to pay for it.”

It was great to hear the strong message of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, on that point. Reform of adult social care is long overdue. As Age UK informed us,

“the care system is broken”; it is ignoring 1.4 million people with an unmet need. Spending on adult social care by English local councils has fallen by 5% in real terms between the 2009-10 financial year and 2017-18, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies in 2018. Recent research carried out by ILC-UK and the Salvation Army found large gaps between upper-tier local authorities’ spending power: in 2014, their spending power ranged from £31,368 in Lambeth Council to £5,762 in Dorset Council. That is totally unacceptable.

Lastly, we heard in the Queen’s Speech:

“Measures will be brought forward to encourage flexible working, to introduce the entitlement to leave for unpaid carers and to help people save for later life”.

Longer working lives could bring economic opportunities to the economy. Recent research by ILC-UK reveals that the earned income generated by people aged 50 and over may account for 40% of total earnings by 2040. However, research by ILC-UK in 2014 also showed that over 1 million people between 50 and 64 leave the workforce involuntarily due to health and care needs or caring responsibilities, at a huge economic cost to the country and social cost for both individuals and their families. As such, initiatives to support older workers to juggle work and caring responsibilities, improved occupational health services and opportunities to learn and retrain throughout people’s careers are paramount to unlocking this economic potential. I hope that the Government will ensure, in line with government policy, that these important needs can be rapidly implemented.