Monday, 13 September 2021

It's not a care plan at all


According to one analysis of the so-called ‘Social Care Plan’ unveiled by Boris Johnson last week, around 70,000 people will die waiting for social care before the lifetime cap on costs of £86,000 comes into force. It’s a headline figure which the Labour Party have seized on to attack the plans, but it seems to be missing the point. It’s not at all clear how introducing the cap earlier would make any difference at all to the numbers waiting for or receiving care – if the cap were to be introduced tomorrow, for instance, instead of waiting until 2023, would any of those 70,000 somehow magically start to receive the care they need?

The real criticism of Johnson’s ‘plan’ is that it isn’t a plan for social care at all. It seems to propose no changes to the way social care is provided or to the quality of that care, merely to the way it is funded. It is a ‘plan’, in short, to raise more revenue for the government and to protect inheritances, especially of the wealthiest, but it does nothing to increase or improve the provision of care, let alone fill the huge gap in the number of carers, a gap which the government’s core policy, Brexit, has served only to widen.

The Labour Party are right to draw attention to the fact that even the financing changes are effectively postponed for years whilst the extra cash is poured into the NHS, but they seem to have allowed themselves to fall into the trap of debating primarily the financing of care rather than how provision is to be improved or increased. An opposition which was prepared for the announcement (and, after all, Johnson has been saying for two years that he had a plan ready; opposition parties have no excuse) would have been ready with some sort of response around how they would deal with the real issues which face many families seeking care for family members. For sure, making quality care affordable for all is part of that, but it’s far from being the totality of it. Treating it, first and foremost, as simply a funding issue is handling the issue on Tory terms, where everything is about money rather than people.

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