In what marks four years since former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to tackle the social care crisis, 60 charities forming the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) have come together to plead with the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to take immediate action. However, recent times have seen the crisis worsen, with the sector facing its most challenging years yet.
The social care system, already grappling with issues such as rising vacancy rates and lack of adequate funding, was dealt a further blow by the global pandemic and a relentless cost-of-living crisis. As a result, patients have been left without the care they rightfully deserve, and the vacancy rates have reached a record high.
Since his appointment as the new Prime Minister in October 2022, Rishi Sunak had vowed to deliver on the manifesto’s promise to reform the system. Nevertheless, the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) remains concerned that genuine progress has stalled.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK and co-chair of CSA, expressed her frustration, stating, “Since Boris Johnson pledged to fix social care four years ago, we have all been on a wild goose chase, and one government policy after another has been announced with a fanfare, only to be subsequently shelved, diluted or dropped. The transformational change in care provision that older people need to see and that was promised to them is yet to materialise, though with our ageing population, it is needed more than ever.”
The heart of the issue lies in funding. While Britain’s welfare state relies on National Insurance contributions, no specific allocation is made to fund social care. Consequently, individuals with assets exceeding £23,250 are forced to pay exorbitant sums for care home services, leaving frail dementia sufferers and their families in distress.
The staggering cost of care for those living with dementia averages around £100,000 but can soar as high as £500,000. The overall cost of dementia to the UK currently stands at a staggering £36 billion annually.
In response to these pressing concerns, government policies were introduced to address the problem. Adult social care charging reforms, which included amendments to the means test and an £86,000 cap on personal care costs, were scheduled to be implemented from October. However, these crucial reforms have now been postponed until 2025, following the next general election.
Moreover, the new Health and Social Care Levy, intended to provide funding for social care reform, has been cancelled, leaving the sector in limbo.
Amidst this disconcerting backdrop, Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, has presented five pillars for social care reform:
- Ring-fencing a percentage of GDP to provide social care for existing recipients and the 1.6 million individuals who are currently unable to access it.
- Establishing a unified National Care Service, which seamlessly integrates health and social care.
- Implementing a National Minimum Wage per hour for care staff, on par with the wages of NHS employees.
- Creating an urgent social care task force to oversee and expedite the reform process.
- Fixing “fair price for care” tariffs, encompassing care beds and home visits.
Mike emphasised, “We are reaching a pivotal moment for social care in this country, and we need politicians to sit up and take notice of the situation that is unfolding before us.”
As the Care and Support Alliance’s plea rings out, the eyes of the nation remain fixed on the Prime Minister and his government’s response to this pressing crisis that affects countless vulnerable individuals and their families. The need for genuine reform has never been more urgent, and the clock is ticking for action to be taken.