19 December 2019: R&RA welcomes the pledge in today’s Queen’s Speech to ensure the social care system provides people with the dignity and security they deserve. We have long called for reform to ensure social care is of high quality and adequately funded. We know from our work supporting older people and their relatives that the need for change is urgent, that the system is at breaking point. Taking a closer look at the details of today’s announcements, it is unclear how high on the new Government’s agenda reform is, and whether new funding will even scratch the surface of a system in crisis.
Today’s Queen’s Speech pledged:
“My Ministers 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.”
Unusually, this is the second Queen’s Speech in as many months. Back in October, Boris Johnson’s (then) minority Government pledged to “bring forward proposals to reform adult social care in England to ensure dignity in old age”. Today’s promise contains some key differences. The reference to ‘old age’ is dropped and replaced with ‘everyone’. Is this an oversight, or does it open up the pledge of reform to other areas of social care?
Significantly, the need for cross-party consensus has been added, raising the question about how high reform is on the Government’s agenda. Back in October, when the Conservatives had a minority in the House of Commons there was no mention in the Queen’s Speech of the need for a consensus. After last week’s election result, the Government now has the majority it needs to get legislative reform through Parliament. The Conservative manifesto points to the need for a long-term solution, which needs the ‘same level of consensus on social care as we have on the NHS’. A more cynical view might be that the need for consensus gives the Government a ‘way out’, or another means to kick the long-promised green paper into the long grass. R&RA will be working to keep this high on the Government’s agenda.
Finally, there are now pledges to ensure ‘security’ and that people won’t have to sell their homes to pay for care. Welcome promises, but they raise the pressing question of money. The Conservative manifesto only pledged an additional £1billion a year for social care, to be shared across care for all age groups. This looks woefully inadequate given the damning findings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that a further £1.6billion to £4billion a year is needed just to sustain the current level of service provision, let alone the additional funding needed to get us out of the current crisis.
We know from the calls we receive to the R&RA Helpline what kind of impact this crisis is having on older people and their relatives. We hear calls from people overwhelmed by caring responsibilities, baffled by the system and battling to get even basic care for their loved ones. We look forward to working with the new Government to ensure this changes, as a matter of urgency.