Labour government ‘determined to make social care work’, says shadow minister

A Labour government would be determined to “make social care work”, the shadow minister has pledged but said he cannot put a figure on how much investment there would be until the party was in power.

Andrew Gwynne (pictured) said the landscape Labour will inherit if they win the election “will be utterly dire”, but vowed to make the case for funding as he re-stated his party’s plan for a so-called national care service (NCS).

A report published by a think tank last year at the request of shadow health secretary Wes Streeting suggested an NCS could be launched on the 80th anniversary of the NHS in July 2028 – but warned there is no “quick fix for our social care emergency”.

A 10-year Government spending commitment would be required with a promise to increase real-terms funding for adult social care by a significant percentage each year, the report from The Fabian Society think tank said.

It did not give a figure for how much the new service for England would cost, but said this should be informed by an independent assessment of cost pressures in adult social care.

Shadow social care minister Mr Gwynne described adult social care as a “service in crisis”.

Addressing the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) spring seminar on Thursday, he said there can no longer be “sticking plasters or short-term fixes” that brush the scale of the challenge “under the carpet”.

He re-stated Labour’s commitment to a 10-year plan for “fundamental reform of adult social care, culminating in the creation of a national care service.”

Asked by reporters after his speech for clarity around how much might be invested in the sector, he said: “We can’t put a figure on the money because we don’t know what we’re likely to inherit.”

He insisted he would “make the case the usual way for investing in health and care services, it’s absolutely our priority.”

Previous estimates have suggested adult social care could need additional funding of around £8 billion a year to meet future demand.

In an earlier speech, new Adass president Melanie Williams said the sector had endured “a decade of disappointment” since the 2014 Care Act, as she called on the next government to finally “grasp the nettle” and deliver lasting reform.

She called for politicians to be put “on the spot” in the forthcoming general election.

Asked by reporters whether Labour can guarantee it will not deliver another decade of disappointment, Mr Gwynne said: “I would hope not because we are determined to make social care work and to have health and wellbeing at the heart of all public policy, everything the next Labour government does.

“I’m determined that we make a real success of a national care service.”

Addressing those gathered at the event in Wyboston, Bedfordshire, Mr Gwynne said an NCS “isn’t something we can deliver overnight and we must be realistic about the timescales needed to get it right”.

He said the landscape Labour will inherit if they win the election “will be utterly dire”.

He added: “If I’m fortunate enough to be the social care minister a big part of my job will be to ensure that the enormous potential of social care – economically, socially and practically – is properly understood by all of my colleagues.”

He reiterated a Labour pledge to bring forward an employment rights Bill within the first 100 days of a Labour government.

He said: “As part of our new deal for working people we will introduce a fair pay agreement for adult social care ensuring that pay, terms and conditions, training and development meet the needs of staff and employers across the sector.”

He also said better consultation with people using social services is needed “to ensure that care and support is available when and where it’s needed”.

In a pledge to crack down on what he called “shoddy providers” in the sector, he said: “Make no mistake, when we see shoddy providers that rip off the most vulnerable and fail to meet standards, we will come down on them like a tonne of bricks.

“Any provider wanting to gain CQC (Care Quality Commission) registration will have to demonstrate clear financial stability, a commitment to supporting their staff and the delivery of high quality care.

“It’s just one of the things we will want to do on the pathway to a national care service to ensure it’s a success.”

Social care minister Helen Whately said while “simplicity, ideology and slogans grab headlines” that “care is complex”.

Addressing the event, she said: “My vision is for a care system which first and foremost recognises what people who draw on care want and is organised to serve that, so it must give people choice and control over their care, care that meets their needs and care which they can rely.”

She said it must be a system which is “joined up” with the NHS through data and shared care records, but that it must be recognised as “different from the NHS”.

She acknowledged the “big challenges” in the sector but said she sometimes feels “frustration at the talking down of social care”.

She said: “My final ask of you all is to tell it as it is. We know social care has big challenges. We know there’s a lot for us to do, we know that there are big challenges ahead but we are working on them. Together we are doing this.”

Ms Whately said she could not take questions because of the purdah period ahead of the May local elections.

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