NHS chief says coronavirus has exposed poor social care

Charities and campaign groups warn delays to social care reform will ‘fail’ millions

‘The constant flip-flopping is profoundly upsetting for everyone involved,’ says Age UK

Kate Devlin,And Andrew Woodcock
Tuesday 04 May 2021 20:09
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Charities and campaign groups have reacted angrily to news ministers are expected to delay an announcement on plans to fix the broken social care system until after next week’s Queen’s Speech.

Caroline Abrahams, the director of Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), accused ministers of “putting up with a grossly underfunded apology for a system that went past its sell-by date years ago”.

Others warned the government would “fail” millions of families if they delayed.

When Boris Johnson entered Downing Street, he promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. 

Last month he said it was “highly likely” that his plan would be in the Queen’s Speech on 11 May.

But yesterday Downing Street would only say ministers would set out their plans shortly, fuelling expectations there will be no social care bill in the government’s programme for the coming year when it is set out by the Queen on Tuesday.

The 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged to seek cross-party consensus to reform how people pay for adult social care.

The party also promised that a prerequisite for any new scheme would be that “no one needing care has to sell their home to pay for it”.

But there are thought to be concerns over how much a new system would cost, especially after the government spent billions battling the coronavirus crisis.

Ms Abrahams said: “To have the government constantly flip-flopping over what kind of changes they want to propose, if any at all, is profoundly upsetting for everyone involved – older and disabled people who use care, and all those who work so hard to provide it, whether paid or unpaid. The prime minister is on the record, not once but repeatedly, as saying his government will fix social care, and it is a reasonable expectation that he will deliver in good faith.”

Millions of older and disabled people for whom care was fundamental to a decent quality of life needed him to follow through, she said.

“At the moment they are putting up with a grossly underfunded apology for a system that went past its sell-by date years ago, as the pandemic has all too graphically shown." 

Fiona Carragher, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that every day people with dementia and their families were being failed by a social care system that is “totally inadequate, hard to access, costly and deeply unfair”.

“It’s coming up to two years since the prime minister promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’ – since then more than 34,000 people with dementia have died of Covid-19, and thousands more have drastically deteriorated,” she added.

“We cannot believe that there won’t be a clear commitment in the Queen’s Speech from this government to rebuild the broken social care system. Anything less fails 850,000 people with dementia and the millions of their family members.”

Edel Harris, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “Boris Johnson promised to fix social care – kicking social care reform further down the road will leave people with a learning disability and their family carers paying the price.

Richard Kramer, chief executive of disability charity Sense, said: “The Queen’s Speech next week is an opportunity to announce plans to finally overhaul the system that provides disabled people and older people, who have been repeatedly forgotten throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, with the support they need to thrive. Social care reform must be given the urgent attention it needs, instead of continuing to be a promise which continuously fails to materialise.  It is not acceptable for disabled people and others who use social care to fall foul of financial trade-offs or bartering between departments – this is about people’s lives.”

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