Parts of economy starting to break down due to social care struggles – Labour warns

Social care is the “bedrock” of the nation’s prosperity and parts of the economy are starting to break down as the sector struggles, Labour has warned.

Liz Kendall (pictured) said she fears the Government does not have a serious plan to address the “absolute crisis” in the care workforce, with record vacancies and older and disabled people going without the care they need.

She said families are spending more money on care, while others are cutting back support and giving up their own jobs “because they can’t afford the help they need for their loved ones”.

The Government said social care is a priority and it is committed to bolstering the workforce and protecting people from unfair costs.

The shadow minister for social care said she will always make the moral argument for the sector, but said she believes there is an “increasingly strong economic case”.

She told the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Manchester: “It is not just that having more and better paid care workers in every village, town and city would make a huge contribution to levelling up our country and a huge contribution to women’s equality, although this is undoubtedly the case.

“It is that our care system, like the NHS, is the bedrock of our national prosperity.

“If the care sector is struggling, other parts of the economy will begin to break down as those who need care see their own health suffer and leave the workforce – which is what we’re increasingly seeing happening, and the demands on families and friends mount.”

Ms Kendall cited research from Carers UK from 2019, which suggested two and a half million people have had to give up work to care for a loved one, and that one in seven workers are juggling their job and care.

She continued: “So families lose their incomes, businesses lose their talent, and the Government loses their taxes. Where on Earth is the sense in that?

“The truth is in modern Britain social care – and I would argue childcare – are as much a part of that economic infrastructure as the roads and the railways.”

Labour’s 10-year plan for social care would see workers paid fairly, improve access to care and shift the focus of support towards prevention at home.

Ms Kendall said she is afraid the Government still does not have a “serious” plan to address workforce pressures – or for reform “full stop”.

She said social care funding reform looks “set to be kicked into the long grass once more” – referring to reports the Government could delay the £86,000 cap on care costs due in October 2023.

It comes as Sir Andrew Dilnot, architect of the original plans for a care cap, said it would be “astonishing” if the Government delayed the measure.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “I think pulling back now would be completely unacceptable.

“To let some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our society down again seems to me would be a terrible, terrible thing to do.

“It will be a breach of the manifesto.”

Delaying it would not make a difference to public finances in the long-term, he added.

Earlier during the Manchester conference, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) president Sarah McClinton said “things have never been so bad” for adult social care.

A “staggering” number of people are waiting for the help they need, while Skills for Care figures show vacancies rose by 52% in a year to a record 165,000 in 2021/22.

Ms McClinton said directors are working to respond to the “enormous challenge” of implementing social care reforms set to be introduced next year, noting uncertainty over the timing of their rollout.

She added: “There are sound reasons for short delay but if we don’t get to the starting line of resolving who’s paying for care, we’re never going to get to the first hurdle, let alone get over it.”

LGA chairman James Jamieson also addressed delegates, calling for the Government to reassess “and delay” the current timetable for reform.

He said this would give councils trialling the cap ahead of the national rollout the chance to share lessons, adding: “While we agree with the reforms – they are absolutely the right reforms – they do need proper funding”.

He continued: “It’s important we get the reform and the funding for social care right and we’re calling yet again for Government to sit with councils, people with lived experience and our partners, working-age adults, old people, unpaid carers, all, in order to develop a system that works for us all.”

When asked, the Government did not say if it is postponing the introduction of the care cap.

It said social care will receive £5.4 billion, originally to be paid for by the now-scrapped health and social care levy, with £500 million to support hospital discharges this winter.

It has also launched its Made With Care recruitment campaign for a second year to encourage people to take up roles in the sector.

A spokesman said: “Social care is a top priority and we are committed to bolstering the workforce and protecting people from unpredictable care costs.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Parliament TV.