Leading organisations in the social care sector have expressed their disappointment today, following the lack of detailed mention about social care in the Queen’s Speech.
The State Opening of Parliament was viewed as a significant moment for the Government to set out its long-term agenda on social care reform and provide clarity on its manifesto promise to ‘fix social care’. The Queen’s Speech began on health and social care and included the following reference: ‘Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward.’
Vic Rayner, Chief Executive of the National Care Forum (NCF), told BBC Breakfast this morning that social care is about ‘changing lives’ and NCF released a statement yesterday calling on the Government to use this opportunity to be ‘ambitious about social care’, describing it as a ‘once in a generation’ chance to reform and invest in social care.
The National Care Forum outlined eight key ambitions for social care reform and highlighted that what’s needed now is a ‘bold’ commitment and investment from the Government ‘fit for now and in the future’.
Providing an initial reaction to the Government’s priorities as set out in the Queen’s Speech, Vic Rayner, Chief Executive of the National Care Forum, said, ‘It comes to something when what isn’t in the Queen’s Speech is as big a news as what is included. This has to be a wake-up call to the Government that it must engage fully and swiftly with the need to reform social care. It is not enough to say the words and follow up with no action. This affects millions of lives, and people up and down the country deserve this Government to grasp this issue with ambition at their heart.’
Care England has expressed its disappointment that meaningful social care reform, which it describes as ‘a very live issue’, has been ‘kicked into the long grass again’. Last month, Care England was one of the 26 co-signatories of an open letter to the Prime Minister, emphasising that social care had been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a high number of deaths in care homes.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said, ‘This is a missed opportunity. Without the much-needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on. A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored. We stand ready and willing to help the Government deliver its manifesto commitment, but the Health and Care Bill, which has a focus on the NHS, is not the vehicle to deliver this huge shift, as it will not produce the system change that is necessary to ensure the future sustainability of the sector.’
The Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS) shared a similar view. Stephen Chandler, ADASS President, said, 'Adult social care is a positive force in our lives and our communities and it can play a huge role in post-pandemic social and economic recovery and the levelling-up of our nation. It is deeply frustrating that we did not hear any detail of how ministers intend to make social care fit for purpose in the 21st century so that it can enable young disabled and older people and carers to realise their ambitions and maximise their independence.'
Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) noted that it was 'good' to hear that proposals will be brought forward in due course, but saw the lack of mention today as 'another missed opportunity.'
Chief Executive Kathryn Smith said, ‘It’s hugely disappointing that a social care bill hasn’t been put forward today as a matter of urgency. It was good to hear that proposals will be brought forward in due course. However, today – and the budget in March – have been just the latest in many missed opportunities over the last few years to sort out social care reform; and time is ticking. In March, we and others called for the Government to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care before the summer parliamentary recess; the Queen’s Speech was an opportunity to do that.’
Speaking about today’s Queen's Speech, Matthew Wort, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said that the Government’s failure to properly address the long-term funding issues affecting social care calls into question Boris Johnson’s statement that he had a plan to ‘fix’ social care. Wort also said that the social care reform process should start by increasing its investment and providing the funding local authorities need to maintain healthy care markets.
Offering his legal perspective to the topic, Matthew Wort said, ‘This situation cannot continue. Government must deliver on its pledge to reform the social care sector now – not later this year. It already missed an opportunity to properly address this in its March Budget, despite care providers continuing to operate high-quality services during one of the most challenging periods ever experienced by the sector. The mention of plans being brought forward is welcome news but change is needed now.’
Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said, ‘A renewed commitment to social care reform is welcome, but today’s words are similar to what was announced in the 2019 Queen’s Speech. We understand that the pandemic has taken precedence but, as the country comes out the other side, councils need more than just an ambition to bring proposals forward. We urge the Government to publish its plan for social care as soon as possible.’
According to the County Councils Network, as well as limiting care costs for individuals, the Government must ensure up-front investment is sufficient to help increase access to services for those whose needs are currently not being met, alongside sustained investment in preventative community care services.
Responding to today’s Queen’s Speech, Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO, said, ‘Today’s Queen’s Speech promised measures on social care. It is vital that these include a clear recognition of the role that housing-with-care can play in driving a supply-side revolution based on the success of the sector during the pandemic.
‘The Government must also ensure that its planning proposals support its ambitions in social care and remove the barriers holding back the growth of a world-class housing-with-care sector in the UK.’
Visit the National Care Forum website to read the National Care Forum’s Policy Agenda.