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Social Care Provision

Volume 638: debated on Tuesday 20 March 2018

This afternoon I will make a speech setting out the principles with which we will approach the social care Green Paper, including a focus on the highest standards of care, integration of the health and social care system and developing a long-term sustainable funding solution.

Given that the arithmetic of this place is so tight, it is clear that there will need to be some form of cross-party consensus for any meaningful reform. Given that the Opposition appear to favour a wealth tax and our party has mooted the idea of individuals paying more for their own care, surely cross-party consensus is within reach; what is the Secretary of State’s view on that?

My hon. Friend always speaks very thoughtfully on this matter, and it is important, because social care issues will continue for decades ahead unless we find a solution and both parties will have to deal with this issue in government. In truth, both parties have made things worse by politicking in the past, whether by discussion about a death tax in 2009 or a dementia tax in 2017.

I have received a document from my local authority sent out by Cheshire and Merseyside NHS which tells it that it should be looking at there being a minimum of one choice of place for people coming out of hospital into a care home, and if that cannot be met it should be looking at transitional placements. So it will have to ask people who are frail and elderly to go into transitional placements, and that will cost more money. How are people going to be able to cope with this? At the end of the day, the problem is simply this: there is not enough money; there is not enough money to pay for good quality staff; and there are not enough places. The Government should be ashamed of themselves.

It is the hon. Gentleman’s party that should be ashamed of itself for leaving us with the financial crisis 10 years ago that has created such huge pressure in both the health and social care systems. Yes, in 2010 there were some cuts in the social care system, but that has changed now and over this Parliament the budget is going up, with £9.4 billion of additional resources, which is an 8.6% increase in real terms. We need to go further, however, which is why we have a Green Paper.

May I add my thanks to those of my hon. Friends for the fact that one of the new medical schools will be placed in east Kent, which is an extremely welcome development for the health economy? On social care, the Secretary of State will be aware that the funding issue is one of the big long-term questions that need to be answered. Can he assure the House that the Green Paper will not only address that, however, but will place equal emphasis on the need for rising quality in social care across the board, because in the short run that is what many families feel most anxious about?

I thank my right hon. Friend for doing some incredibly important work when he was responsible for this area; he laid some really important foundations. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: earlier my hon. Friend the Minister for Care talked about the fact that 81% of adult social care providers are good or outstanding, but that means that one in five is not, which means too many people are not getting adequate social care provision. We must put quality at the heart of this, and of course that does link to funding.

I hope the Secretary of State saw last night’s “Panorama”, which highlighted the link between the low pay of careworkers and the gender pay gap. We all know about the amazing work careworkers do, particularly in difficult circumstances such as when there is severe weather or where there are 15-minute appointments, so what is the Secretary of State going to do to ensure they are properly rewarded?

I am pleased that the hon. Lady mentioned that, because today is world social worker day. It is a day on which to celebrate the brilliant work done by people working in the social care system, often at low rates of pay. We should also celebrate the fact that, thanks to the national living wage, 900,000 workers have benefited, including through a raise of up to £2,000 a year in the take-home pay for the lowest paid workers.