'Johnson has no social care fix – Starmer needs to step up'

(left to right) Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exc

Health secretary Sajid Javid, prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak, during the briefing to fix the broken social care system - Credit: PA

Warnings about the desperate state of our underfunded, chaotic and unstable care sector have been around for decades so, when Johnson announced his plan to “fix” social care, there were cautious welcomes from car providers, charities and carers.

The 10% hike in National Insurance to 12.5% led angry Red Wall Tories to ask how they explain to constituents why they should suffer to protect the inheritances of the rich in Surrey.

The tax will raise £12bn annually, the bulk going to fund the NHS tackle the elective backlog. Little will get to social care in the first two years (councils will have to wait until the 2021 spending review for news of any uplift). Labour estimate that almost 70 000 adults will die waiting for the social care cap to kick in.

But the most striking thing about Johnson’s announcement was the lack of detail about how social care will actually be “fixed”. Confusingly, there is a promise of a white paper aimed at accelerating integration between health and social care. Does Johnson know that there is already a white paper going through parliament promising better integration between health and social care?

David Winskill is concerned about the impact the NHS accelerated discharge system will have on the vulnerable.

David Winskill says that there was a lack of detail about how social care will be fixed in the prime minister's announcement - Credit: Archant

The Institute for Government’s response included the chilling fact that “fewer people now receive local authority-funded social care than in 2010 despite rapidly rising demand “.

Whatever is allocated to social care won’t even get us back to 2010.

Johnson said little about tackling workforce turnover and vacancy rates, improving training and pay (over two thirds of care workers get less than the real living wage). Covid demonstrated the lack of resilience in the care sector (28,000 excess deaths) and this in turn was a reflection of the diminishing fees that local authorities have been able to pay.

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There was little support for England’s army unpaid carers or about improving domiciliary care to allow some dignity for the old and the frail. Not a word on current levels of unmet demand and the penal eligibility criteria.

Instead, Johnson cynically encouraged a row about funding rather than have a calm and focused debate about how to reform the system.

So, what would Labour do? So far plenty of arm waving but few substantive plans. One “senior source” said Labour will announce policy “…on our terms and make it our moment“.

The party conference season is almost on us. Hopefully Starmer and Ashworth will shun childish news management and get on with setting out a plan that is comprehensive, sustainable and fair.

David Winskill is a Crouch End writer and campaigner.