Yes and yes, which is why I made the point about the economic imperative and why we need to see the sector as an essential part of our economic infrastructure.
I wondered which Minister would respond to the debate. We tend to think of the matter as being about care, but it is also about the economy. It would be great to have Ministers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills engaged with the issue, given their responsibilities for the national minimum wage. It is a shame that BIS Ministers do not engage with the sector as much as they should to ensure that it develops as necessary, not least in terms of skills. The national minimum wage is where to start, but we must aspire to more. Demos’s work suggests that we need to move the sector to a living wage, which would mean real benefits for providers because it would drive down staff turnover, which would reduce the frictional cost of employing new people. That would be a saving for businesses and would reduce absenteeism. A study in London, where the living wage is being progressively introduced, estimated a 25% reduction in absenteeism, so there are real benefits to employers paying above the national minimum wage and actually paying a living wage.
For all those reasons, I welcome the debate. It is important, but it is also about recognising the overall quantum of funding going into adult social care—Helen Jones is absolutely right about that. I look forward to the Labour Front-Bench spokesman setting out what Labour’s spending plans are. We have heard about the plans for the health service, and the right hon. Member for Oxford East is right; we tend to talk about the health service and neglect social care. I hope that the shadow Minister will not neglect social care and will say what, within Labour’s spending plans, will deal with the funding issues in social care too.