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Social Care White Paper: has Boris “fixed it”?

The desperately needed reform of adult social care has been promised repeatedly by successive governments for many years, all of whom have then failed to deliver, despite cross-party acknowledgement that a solution must be found.

In 2019, Boris Johnson stated that he had a plan and promised to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. And now we finally have a 10-year vision for social care set out in the new White Paper, ‘People at the Heart of Care.’

Is social care getting fixed?

So, has Boris kept his promise? Is social care getting fixed?

In a word: no. These plans really don’t fix anything. Credit where it’s due, there is some much-needed progress, but the underlying issues and long-term staffing planning haven’t been solved just yet.

White Papers are policy documents produced by the Government to show how they’re planning to address an issue and set out their proposals for future legislation. Publishing a white paper tests public opinion on (sometimes controversial) policy issues and helps the Government gauge its probable impact.

This can then lead to final changes being made before a Bill is formally presented to Parliament. So White Papers are important because they show the ‘direction of travel’ of a Government, but also allow some wiggle room before the Bill is voted on by MPs.

There’s no doubt that social care is a difficult nut to crack, not least because it needs some serious investment to meet immediate needs and transform public perception of the care sector into one that’s aspirational to work in.

It also needs significant investment over the long-term to meet the anticipated future needs of an ageing population. How much investment? It’s been estimated by the health and social care select committee as a minimum of £7bn a year extra by the end of this Parliament just to maintain current standards of care – not the approximately £1bn of spending outlined in this White Paper.

What the MPs are saying

Gillian Keegan, the Minister for Care and Mental Health, described the 103-page plan as

‘An important step on our journey to giving more people the dignified care that we want for our loved ones, setting out important changes that will last for generations and will stand the test of time.’

And to be fair, the vision outlined of more independent, flexible care with a new generation of “extra care” housing schemes and improved technology to help people stay at home all sounds great.

But as Labour’s Liz Kendall, the Shadow Care Minister, said:

‘Ministers have utterly failed to deal with the immediate pressures facing social care as we head into one of the most difficult winters on record. Hundreds of thousands of older or disabled people [are] being left without vital support, piling even more pressure on their families at the worst possible time, yet the Minister has announced absolutely nothing to seal with any of this.’

Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the health and social care select committee, told the Minister the plans would do nothing to stop:

‘Hospital wards continuing to be full of people who should be discharged and older people not getting the care they need because the carers don’t exist.’

He went on to describe it as “three steps forward and two steps back”. And that’s from a Conservative ex-Health Minister!

Every SCI person should be able to access the same services and life opportunities as anyone else in society

From our perspective, our What Matters report in 2021 highlighted that accessing social care was our members’ biggest concern when it came to their care and health. Good quality care enables thousands of SCI people to lead a fulfilled and productive life.  If SCI people are unable to get the best quality care support possible, they risk ending up in hospital with wholly avoidable medical complications.

This is why we’ll continue to engage with the Migration Advisory Committee, Ministers, MPs and other organisations to support action NOW to alleviate the care crisis. Every SCI person should be able to access the same services and life opportunities as anyone else in society. Proper care support facilitates control, choice and opportunity.

read the ‘People at the Heart of Care’ White Paper