Labour announce plans for social care reform
Ahead of the upcoming local elections, the Labour Party have announced details of plans to reform the social care system. We spoke to Jeff Wilton-Love, director of Chapter Care, to assess the sector response to Labour’s plans.
The plans call for increased provision of home help to the elderly, investment in the training and development of the social care force, a move away from “inappropriate” inpatient units and towards community integration for people with learning difficulties and autism, and an increase in the earning threshold for carer’s allowances that is in line with the national living wage.
In Labour’s 2017 general election campaign, they stated that £8 billion would be invested in social care over a lifetime of parliament.
On Friday, shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley announced that £2.8 billion would be invested directly in home care support for 160,000 more people who currently do not receive care, specifically for vulnerable people and those with dementia.
A minimum of 50,000 home care packages will go to people with dementia. These packages can include support for domestic and personal hygiene tasks for people living at home.
Last year, leading health think-tank The King’s Fund found that despite a growth in the demand for care, 20,000 fewer elderly people receive support than compared to three years ago. This is allied to a decrease in overall spending with social care spending having decreased in real terms, dropping £700 million below the level of 2010/11.
The think-tank identified a gap between projected demand growth for social care and proposed government expenditure. A report estimated that at current prices, there would be shortfalls of £1.5 billion in 2020/21 and £6 billion 2030/33.
The adult social care sector sees a quarter of its care staff leave each year, and the shadow social care minister has voiced concerns about the impact of staff retention rates on the quality of care.
In an attempt to combat this, the Labour Party’s social care reforms include £350 million a year towards training care staff.
An additional £350 million a year will go towards taking autistic people and people with learning difficulties out of inpatient units and into communities.
Labour says that increases in spending would see no rises in income tax for those earning below £80,000 a year and has promised that there will be no increase in personal National Insurance Contribution and VAT rates. However, business rates would increase for larger firms, along with an increase in inheritance tax.
Conservative Minister Caroline Dinenage has voiced that she is “frustrated” by the Department of Health and Social Care’s failure to publish a landmark Social Care Green Paper, which was originally due to be published in 2018.
Dinenage nodded to the parliamentary deadlock on Brexit as contributing to hold-ups concerning the domestic social care crises, though added “we haven’t just put the Green Paper on a shelf and left it. We’ve continued to evolve and develop it.”
Responding to these plans, Jeff Wilton-Love told the Review: "At first glance the reforms look like a good starting place, however although they mention carers being properly paid, there is no mention of how this will happen.
"The increase in people needing social care in our area will just mean more people on our unfulfilled list; we can’t provide care for everyone who requires it at the moment due to the disparity in the job market pay scales and that recruitment is currently a full time job just to stand still.
"Training is something I have been looking into and I think we need to change the perception of “just being a carer” into something professional.
"Providing industry-wide standardised training and a professional qualification would most definitely be a beginning and providing a career path could perhaps be an excellent draw into social care.
"If, for instance, we offered a three year placement working in social care as a path to the NHS and nursing, it would be a great recruitment tool and also an excellent feeder for the NHS: the proverbial double edged sword.
"Caring can be a dead end job and there aren’t places for everyone to advance so it does leave some people being “just a carer” for their entire life.
"However, I am glad thing are being looked at. There are a wealth of other problems with social care.
"VAT exempt status makes it very challenging to invest into other areas. A change to becoming zero rated would mean we could easily invest and be competitive and then we could even claim back the VAT we pay on our work tools like every other business. Allowing us to invest could bring more money into the sector."