Boris Johnson has ‘let down’ country by breaking promise to fix social care, say MPs and charities

1.4 million requests for care turned down since PM’s historic pledge to deliver plan two years ago

Adam Forrest
Saturday 24 July 2021 09:53 BST
Boris Johnson vows to fix crisis in social care during his first Downing Street speech

Boris Johnson has been accused of “letting down” the country by failing to fulfil a promise he made exactly two years ago to fix Britain’s broken social care system.

One the second anniversary of his arrival at Downing Street, charities and opposition parties have vowed to make sure the prime minister does not forget his pledge.

In his first speech after becoming prime minister on 24 July 2019, Mr Johnson told the nation: “We will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared.”

No such plan has yet been published, and there was disappointment this week when his government spurned the chance to bring forward proposals to boost funding for the social care system.

Some 1.4 million requests for care from older people have been turned down by local authorities in England since Mr Johnson’s historic pledge two years ago, according to Age UK.

Ahead of the anniversary of the PM’s speech, Age UK representatives handed in a letter to Downing Street urging him to honour his promise.

The charity, which analysed data from NHS Digital, said the 1.4 million requests for care equates to nearly 14,000 people aged 65 and over each week not getting the vital support they need.

In 24 per cent of these cases the local council found they did not meet the eligibility criteria for social care support, and in 26 per cent they were referred to other services after being found ineligible, Age UK said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it and other charities “will be working hard to ensure the government doesn’t forget the commitment it has made”.

The Age UK director said: “After all the recent media stories suggesting that the government wanted to make an announcement about its social care proposals before recess, it is very disappointing to have been let down once again.”

Ms Abrahams added: “The fact that we are all now thoroughly used to being led down the garden path doesn’t make this latest disappointment any easier … These constant government delays carry a cost.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said he was disappointed by the delay, and urged the government to prioritise reform when parliament returns from recess.

He said people working the sector were “exhausted” by the extra demands of the pandemic. “It’s probably the most serious it has been for many, many years. So that’s why we need a plan for social care that will refresh people and give them some confidence in the future,” said Mr Green.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, said: “After more than a decade in power – and two years after the prime minister made a clear promise on the steps of Downing Street – we are still no closer to seeing a plan to fix the crisis in social care.

“Every day the government delays their plans for fixing the crisis in social care is another day that staff don’t get the pay and training they deserve, another day that thousands of people go without the basic help they need.”

There had been widespread expectation that care funding proposals would be put forward before the summer, but the three main players who would be involved in the decision – Mr Johnson, chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid – are all self-isolating.

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak had reportedly come close to agreeing to a plan to reform social care by raising national insurance by 1 per cent – but some cabinet ministers made clear they were unhappy at the prospect of a tax hike.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng referred to the Tory manifesto commitment not to raise national insurance contributions, saying: “I don’t see how we could.”

Minister rejects national insurance hike to fund social care rescue

The Resolution Foundation condemned the national insurance idea as “a terrible way to raise the funds required”.

The think tank argued it would mean increasing tax on working-age young people, few of whom have the funds to buy a home, in order to ensure that the elderly are not forced to sell their homes to pay for care.

Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson, the party’s spokesperson on health and social care, told The Independent it was “high time” the prime minister fulfilled his promise.

Referring to reports a national insurance rise was being considered, she said: “After two whole years the only part of Boris Johnson’s clear plan for social care we know is that his plan to pay for it will hit low earners and the young hardest, just when they are struggling the most.”

Ms Wilson added: “People who have worked hard and paid taxes all their lives deserve high-quality social care if they need it. The Liberal Democrats are calling for a proper, cross-party fix for social care.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said it was frustrated that social care reform announcements were not made before the parliamentary recess.

James White, head of public affairs, said that “while dementia isn’t curable yet, the care system is … However, the social care system is funded, its reform must be delivered, with proper investment in the sector.”

A government spokesperson said “no decisions have been made” on the issue, promising only that a plan would be set out “before the end of the year”.

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