Is bending the goalposts on social care enough?

By Heather Jameson | 07 September 2021
  • Heather Jameson

Despite the media and Labour benches’ furore over Boris Johnson’s broken manifesto promise, it has probably come as no surprise to the electorate that, in the extenuating backdrop of a pandemic, a Prime Minister that is not known for rigidity has bent the goalposts.

What is unusual about this broken promise is that it has been done in an effort to meet another – one made by successive Governments that have all failed to make good. After a quarter of a decade, someone is finally biting the bullet and tackling the crisis in adult social care.

Well, sort of.

In an effort to make a rise in national insurance palatable for Conservative MPs and the voting public alike it had to be tied to rescuing the NHS. And there is no doubt that the health service will need a cash injection in its bid to recover from the pandemic.

But, with the lion’s share of the national insurance rises going to the health service in the first instance, the Government’s plans for social care seem to have rapidly become a quick fix for the NHS.

Health services are rife with good causes and difficult decisions – wrestling cash back from the NHS as the backlog fades is unlikely to be an easy ask.

And, with just £5.4bn for social care over three years, increased costs due to floors and caps and workforce reform – all bearing down on a system that was already bursting at the seams – this is barely enough to touch the sides.

While the Prime Minister, chancellor and health and social care secretary all repeated the mantra ‘you can’t fix health without fixing care’, it remains to be seen if they have done enough to fix either.

This leaves local government still waiting for the detail, for the Budget and for the Spending Review – now set for 27 October. And then there is an integration White Paper, also announced by the PM.

Just how does the Government plan to integrate? In the chancellor’s words, social care is a ‘permanent new role for the Government’. Does that mean a national care service? See Scotland’s plans for details.

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