Archbishop urges Government tackle ‘very, very distressing situation’ facing social care

Social care is facing a “very, very distressing situation”, the Archbishop of York has told Parliament as he urged Government action to tackle the crisis.

Speaking at Westminster, the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell (pictured) painted a bleak picture in the region he represents, with vulnerable people not receiving the support they need, while recruitment and retention of staff was “appalling”.

The senior church leader raised his concerns as ministers were also pressed over reports that a promised £500 million investment in the adult social care workforce could be at risk.

It comes as the Government is due shortly to publish a plan for reform of the system.

Social care shortages have fueled the problem of bed-blocking in hospitals, leading to long ambulance queues and delays reaching 999 patients.

The Government has also faced criticism for the decision to push back long-promised social care reforms to October 2025.

These included an £86,000 cap on personal care cost contributions and an expanded means test that was more generous than the existing one, which had been due to come into effect from October 2023.

Earlier this year, church leaders called for a “radical redesign” of England’s “broken” social care system.

A so-called National Care Covenant, setting out the rights and responsibilities of national and local government, communities, families and citizens should be established, the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care said.

Highlighting the perilous state of the care system, the archbishop said: “In the cities of Hull and Middlesbrough, which I serve, I see so many people in need of care and not receiving it.

“I discover recruitment and retention are appalling. I find care workers having to use food banks so they can feed their families.

“It gives me no pleasure to say this but it is a very, very distressing situation that we are in.

“Surely at the heart of this it’s about valuing the care worker in the same way that we value others.

“I wonder whether you can give us an assurance that that will be at the heart of what is being proposed?”

Responding, health minister Lord Markham outlined the Government’s aim to provide “a full wrap-around service”.

He said: “I speak here as an ex-carer myself. We are managing to increase recruitment, not easy in the age of full employment, but we are managing to do that.”

Earlier, the minister had told peers the soon-to-be-published reform plan would provide specific detail on the social care workforce, including funding.

Lord Markham had been challenged by Labour peer and former chief executive of Carers UK Baroness Pitkeathley over reported cuts in staff investment.

She said: “These rumours cause great distress to those trying to provide decent care to some of the most vulnerable in our society, against a background of a 13% vacancy rate – so one in eight posts is vacant.

“The money that has been promised seems to be very slow in actually reaching the front line.”

Lady Pitkeathley added: “I am very glad to know we are going to see the plan for the social care workforce. We have waited a long time for it.

“Will it ensure that those who work in social care are finally properly recognised, rewarded and trained so that their status can at last be comparable with those who work in the NHS?”

Lord Markham said: “I think and hope members will be pleased that the questions around training, recognition of the importance of the service and making a career structure will all be addressed in the report.”

He also told peers he did not recognise reports of cuts and pointed to a commitment to provide £7.5 billion over the next two years to the support services, which amounted to a 20% hike in funding.

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