Biggest failure of social policy in modern times

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AN open letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Dear Secretary of State,

As I write to you again, the country is seeing some positive signs of a brighter future: death rates from coronavirus are falling and lockdown restrictions are starting to be eased.

But we must be cautious as we aren’t through this yet. And that particularly applies to the care of older and vulnerable people and those with disabilities, receiving care in homes and in the community.

Care providers across the country still face a challenging and uncertain future and we need help.

We need support now, to conquer Covid-19 and then a clear plan on how we can rebuild social care in the future, as years of neglect and under-funding for the sector have been brutally exposed by coronavirus.

The Independent Care Group has a five-point plan to achieve that and I share that here.

In the short term, care providers need urgent help to deal with coronavirus. Whilst deaths from Covid-19 are falling within care settings, they are still alarmingly high.

Covid-19 testing, which you promised to have carried out on all care and nursing home residents by the start of June, is still not comprehensive. If the latest statistics from the Data Analysis Bureau are correct, only 23 per cent of residents have received a test at any point so far.

This severely hampers our efforts to bring Covid-19 totally under control within social care. There are still some issues with personal protective equipment too, particularly over costs.

Above all, care providers are continuing to struggle financially and there is a very real danger that some will fail at this critical moment.

The £3.2bn promised to care providers, and the extra £600m pledged most recently, still isn’t reaching all providers – it is patchy, to say the least, and tied up in much bureaucracy. I would suggest financial support is channelled through the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rather than local authorities, to help speed up the process.

But this is an opportunity for you and this Government to be bold, as Bevan was with the NHS 74 years ago, and make a name for itself as the administration that finally tackled the social care crisis.

The sources of the current problems are well documented, but almost £8bn cut from social care budgets since 2010 has left a sector on its knees, unable to deal with something like coronavirus.

To ensure that never happens again, we have to have a root and branch reform of social care as soon as the danger of Covid-19 is over.

I would suggest a time-limited review by an industry-led task force to come up with some practical, immediate and sustainable solutions. This task force should include industry experts.

Here is the Independent Care Group’s five-point plan to begin successful reform of the social care sector:

The total integration of NHS healthcare and social care;

Social care free at the point of need, funded through taxation or National Insurance;

A commissioner for older people and those with Learning Disabilities in England;

A career pathway, salary framework and professional registration for care staff;

A properly-costed minimum national rate for care fees.

There can be no more delays, we have to see action on social care reform and we have to see it now.

Social care staff have performed amazingly during the pandemic and deserve to be recognised and rewarded properly in the future, enjoying parity with their NHS colleagues.

I have written on numerous occasions to you, the Prime Minister and to the Chancellor on various issues, both during coronavirus and before. I have yet to receive a reply.

To me that looks like a Government that doesn’t care enough to respond.

I hope I am wrong and that this Government will not be afraid but will tackle social care.

Boris Johnson is a big admirer of Winston Churchill and it was the great man himself who wrote: “You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.”