Failure to detail long-promised social care reforms in Queen’s Speech a ‘missed opportunity’

The failure to detail long-promised social care reforms in the Queen’s Speech is a “missed opportunity” and the Government must urgently set out how it will deliver its manifesto commitment, care groups have said.

Measures to address the long-standing issue of social care funding and reform were not included in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday.

The Queen confirmed proposals will be brought forward as she set out the Government’s legislative agenda.

Introducing the speech, Boris Johnson said: “Later in the year we will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care so that every person receives the dignity and security they deserve.”

No further detail on the content of these reforms was given.

Care groups, charities and politicians have been long calling for a plan to “fix” the sector, which the Prime Minister promised in his first speech after being elected in July 2019.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman denied that Mr Johnson had misled the country when he said at that time that he had already prepared a “clear plan” to fix the system.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the provider membership organisation Care England, said: “This is a missed opportunity.

“Without the much-needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on.

“A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored.”

The National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, said the Government must engage “fully and swiftly” with reform.

Chief executive Vic Rayner said: “It is not enough to say the words and follow up with no action.

“This affects millions of lives, and people up and down the country deserve this Government to grasp this issue with ambition at their heart.”

Chairman of the Independent Care Group Mike Padgham said older and vulnerable people have been “betrayed” and reform has been “pushed down the road”.

He said: “Yes, social care was mentioned in the Queen’s Speech but in reality, the Government was just paying lip service to the reform that is now so long overdue.”

Fiona Carragher, director of research and influencing at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the mention of social care was positive, but that “we need more detail about what is planned, and quickly”.

She said: “The pandemic has exposed the cracks in our failing social care system.

“It is time for the Government to take the next vital steps and honour their promises with a concrete plan for the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK.

“They need high-quality, accessible social care, free at the point of use, like the NHS.”

Independent Age said it is “extremely disappointed by the lack of detailed policy announcements” on social care reform in the Queen’s Speech.

Chief executive Deborah Alsina said proposals must improve access, support carers, develop a clear workforce strategy and fairly spread the burden of catastrophic care costs.

She said: “It’s clear there are no quick fixes, and small tweaks won’t suffice.

“The Government must meet the moment and deliver bold reforms to ensure that those in later life and their families can live with dignity, choice and purpose.”

A briefing note from Number 10, accompanying the speech, said the Government will engage with staff about how best to support the 1.5 million-strong workforce and ensure that reform is “informed by diverse perspectives”.

It noted that care costs are unpredictable, can be very high, and that “not all the risk is shared across society”.

Health groups said measures to help the NHS recover following the pandemic will only succeed if social care is given equal attention.

Richard Murry, chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “The focus on supporting the NHS to recover from the last year is welcome, but for that to succeed there must be equal focus on ensuring social care and public health services also recover, along with a long-term workforce plan that addresses staff shortages, tackles staff stress and burnout by improving working cultures and recognises the impact of the last year on staff wellbeing.”

Acting general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Pat Cullen said ignoring social care is the same as ignoring the NHS, and that both are “desperately in need of investment”.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea added: “Social care failings have a knock-on effect on the NHS too. A world-class system is needed, and a government with the ambition and drive to deliver.”

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