The Social Care crisis is in the news again, but sadly this by no means a recent development. Social Care has been in crisis for decades, across successive Governments. It’s infuriating that ten years after the Dilnot report, and seven years after laws were passed to support a Dilnot-style capped cost model, we’re still no closer to taking the large steps needed to fix it.
When I stood for election in 2019 I had a number of emails from people raising their concerns about social care. The cost was one aspect, but another was support for those who suffered from dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society “Election Manifesto 2019” indicated people with dementia occupied 70% of places in residential care. That’s a huge number, and the sad fact is with the number of people with dementia set to rise, the pressures on social care will continue to grow as well.
This is supported by the Kings Fund’s “Social Care 360 Report”, which confirms that demand for social care has been increasing but receipt of long-term care is falling because thresholds are not remaining in line with inflation.
But this isn’t just about making sure residential accommodation is available and affordable.
Any solution to address social care must also consider independent living. During the 2019 election, The Green Party promised an additional £4.5 billion a year to local councils to provide free social care to those people over 65 who need support in their own homes. This model has been in place in Scotland since 2001 and has helped millions of people be cared for in their own homes – it’s time to extend this right to free home care to pensioners in England (care in Wales is devolved to the National Assembly for Wales).
As with most things, the answer isn’t just throwing money at the problem. Sure, more funding is an important factor, but we need to look at the wider context, for example, further funding and reforms to mental and physical health services would have a positive impact on social care as well.
We must also look after our carers. Care worker pay was rising by more than inflation but was not keeping pace with other sectors. When staff vacancy numbers are already high, losing more staff will only make this situation worse.
It’s also likely that unpaid carers will continue to play a role, so we must therefore make sure families are supported mentally, physically, and financially. Part of that financial support would have come from a Green New Deal, that offered a Universal Basic Income to all, alleviating some of the financial pressure from carers.
Other than announcements in the last manifesto, Green Party policy is sadly lacking in detail when describing what we’d do to fix the crisis and place on record our support for reforms. I’m sure I won’t be the only Green Party member who has noticed this, and plans may already be afoot to draft motions to Conference to fix this, which I will play close attention to. I’d also be interested to see what Green Party councillors around the UK have been doing on this front.
Locally, in Waltham Forest, I recall in 2016, when Labour and Conservative councillors voted to increase council tax to “Protect social care”, though it was always only a temporary reprieve. Local Labour councillors were keen to put the blame squarely on a Conservative government, ignoring that social care was already a big issue during Labour’s Blair Government, while the Tory councillors told us we should “thank” the Tory Government for their part in forcing this tax rise (caused by the Tories cutting local funding) and trivialised talk of transport and recycling concerns as “wittering.”
For more information about the reforms being called for, you can read the following reports: