Social care services are in a state of crisis. There are 120,000 vacancies in the social care workforce, people are having to give up their jobs to care for loved ones and fill the caring gap, and our elderly and most vulnerable people are missing out on vital care.
The Conservatives, damaged by their toxic proposal at the last election to introduce a Dementia Tax and distracted by their pursuit of Brexit, have failed to deliver on their promises to reform social care and give it the support it needs. In fact social care didn't even get a mention in the Conservative manifesto. The recent Government commitment to increase funding in the NHS ignored the vital areas of health and social care.
Apart from lack of money, shortage of staff is a major problem. Social care is a massive employer. 1.5 million people work in social care of which 104,000 are EU nationals. There are 120,000 vacancies in the social care workforce, both Labour and the Conservatives have declared that EU free movement will end after Brexit – with EU nationals 8% of our social care workforce Brexit, the end of freedom of movement would be a disaster for social care.
The Liberal Democrats have a bold plan to transform social care services. Our ultimate aim is to bring together NHS, Social Care and public health seamlessly – pooling budgets in every area and supporting integrated care systems. We want to see services that work in a more joined-up way for the people who depend on them and with local democratic accountability and transparency.
Immediately we will put a penny in the pound on Income Tax to urgently invest in social care. We will establish a cross-party commission to develop a long-term funding settlement for the NHS and social care and secure its future. By stopping Brexit we will ensure EU citizens continue to live in the UK and work, including in our NHS and social care services.
In the longer term, to put the funding of health and care on a sounder footing we will:
- Commission the development of a dedicated, progressive Health and Care Tax, offset by other tax reductions, on the basis of wide consultation and extensive engagement with the public. The intention is to bring together spending on both services into a collective budget and set out transparently, on people’s payslips, what the Government is spending on health and social care.
- Establish a cross-party health and social care convention that builds on the existing body of work from previous conventions, select committees and the 2018 citizens’ assembly to reach agreement on the long-term sustainable funding of a joined-up system of health and social care. We will invite patients’ groups, professionals, the public and the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be a part of this work. Introducing a cap on the cost of care as provided for in the Care Act but not so far delivered by the Conservatives would be a key starting point for Liberal Democrat participants.
- Introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring body for health and care, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This would report every three years on how much money the system needs to deliver safe and sustainable treatment and care, and how much is needed to meet the costs of projected increases in demand and any new initiatives – to ensure any changes in services are properly costed and affordable.