A pledge made in Downing Street four years ago today to fix the social care crisis has been left unfulfilled – with promises of support for the sector shelved, diluted or dropped, a coalition of charities has said.
The Care and Support Alliance (CSA), which represents more than 60 of England’s leading organisations campaigning for a properly funded care system, said people have been “on a wild goose chase” because vows of help for some of society’s most vulnerable were not followed through.
On July 24 2019, in his first speech as prime minister, Boris Johnson said the Conservatives would “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”.
While Rishi Sunak did not mention social care in his first speech as Prime Minister in October 2022, he promised to deliver on his party’s 2019 manifesto.
But the CSA said there have been “U-turns, delays and watering down” and it is concerned “social care reform has stalled once again, leaving millions of older and disabled people and their families struggling to access the care they need”.
The Government was criticised for saying earlier this year that social care workforce funding would be halved from a previously pledged £500 million – a move branded a betrayal by charities, unions and opposition parties.
The Government said no funding for the adult social care sector has been removed or reallocated to the NHS and up to £600 million has “not yet been allocated” – and will be targeted on measures “that will have the most impact” over the next two years.
The CSA also lamented the scrapping of the Health and Social Care Levy last year and the delay of adult social care charging reforms – including changes to the means test and £86,000 cap on personal care costs – from October 2023 to October 2025.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK and co-chairwoman of the CSA, said: “Since Boris Johnson pledged to fix social care four years ago we have all been on a wild goose chase as 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 Prime Minister stood for office on the 2019 Conservative manifesto and says he wants to abide by it, so rather than backtracking on social care reform he needs to stand by his word and drive forward with it.”
CSA co-chairwoman Jackie O’Sullivan, who is also director of communication, advocacy and activism at Mencap, criticised the lack of a plan for social care, similar to the recently announced NHS long-term workforce plan.
She said: “It beggars belief that the Government has halved funding to support the training, skills and wellbeing for the social care workforce.
“Saying that social care is in urgent need of reform is easy but delivering on their promise has proved to be beyond the Government.
“Rishi Sunak must show the leadership necessary to address workforce pay, timely access to support and the underfunding of the system for working-aged disabled adults and older people before it’s too late.”
Emily Holzhausen, director of policy and public affairs at Carers UK and co-chairwoman of the CSA, said it is “deeply disappointing” that the promise to fix social care “has not yet been delivered”.
She said: “Families are providing more unpaid care than ever before and many are at breaking point as the pressure on them becomes too much.
“Because of a lack of care, many have no choice but to reduce or give up paid employment entirely because of a lack of care, and their health, which is already poor, is put under even more strain.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are fully committed to our 10-year vision to reform adult social care, and recently published our Next Steps to put People at the Heart of Care plan – setting out how we are spending £700 million over the next two years.
“As part of this we have already allocated £250 million for the workforce to develop their skills and careers and we’ve also made up to £7.5 billion available to help reduce adult social care waiting times and increase workforce capacity.”