The Future of Social Care: A general election focus

In the run up to the general election, healthcare has, as expected, received plenty of attention. With increased waiting lists and access to hospital and GP appointments continuing to be an issue post covid, political parties are quite rightly focussing on these issues. 

NHS staff work tirelessly to keep us healthy, but what about the sometimes invisible thread that weaves through the lives of the community – supporting the vulnerable? This is the realm of social care, a sector often forgotten despite its profound impact.

Social care professionals are the unsung heroes, providing essential support for those who need it most. They keep elderly individuals safe, enable people to live independently and help families navigate challenging circumstances. They care with dignity, enable a sense of independence and ensure that everyone, regardless of background or circumstance, has the chance to live a fulfilling life.

It’s worth understanding that the social care sector employs a massive number of people. In England alone, there are over 1.7 million social care posts, exceeding the number employed by the NHS. Yet it continues to be a sector that is facing breaking point.

Whatever the outcome in the general election, health and social care specialists will want to ensure that a plan for social care is prioritised – and how financially it can be supporting our ageing population.

What could the future look like?

The Labour Party’s manifesto, published most recently, recognises the crises within social care, but steers away from any real detail. Labour is certainly championing  the home first model of care and says it will work towards a National Care Service. The party has also stated it will look to improve pay, conditions and training for care workers. This will surely be welcomed by care providers to support the recruitment and retention of care workers, providing them with more recognition and consistency.

On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats plan to extend access to free personal care, which is currently means-tested in England with only the poorest receiving help. Their proposal involves a £2.7 billion annual package and raising taxes on banks to cover the cost. With the focus very much on personal care, care providers could be concerned that the wider picture is not being considered. What about companionship or specialist care? Would this approach be truly person-centred?

The Conservative’s manifesto headline is their plan to introduce an £86k cap to social care. This means that no one would pay more than that for personal care over a lifetime. There is uncertainty around how this will be funded and the one penny increase to National Insurance that was introduced to pay for it was scrapped soon after it was announced.

Social Care Silence

There still seems to be very little recognition of the sector and this has perhaps been highlighted with only brief mentions of social care in the manifestos. Let’s also not forget about the benefits of investing in social care which lead to savings in the NHS. Access to timely social care support has been proven to reduce emergency callouts and hospital admissions and enables people to remain at home, for longer. However, it is certainly positive to see that social care has in fact been mentioned and considered.

It’s apparent there is a lack of understanding from the public about what social care is and how it is funded. Many people still believe that social care is free through the NHS. This misapprehension perhaps steers political parties in what they focus on communicating to the public.

The need to elevate the profile of social care isn’t just important, it’s essential. We all have a stake in the care system – as potential recipients or future providers. That’s why Conteur is dedicated to working in close partnership with our health and social care clients. Every day, we see firsthand the challenges faced by those supporting vulnerable communities. We don’t just partner with these organisations, but actively participate in campaigns that advocate for a stronger social care sector.

We’re confident positive change for social care is on the horizon, regardless of political tides. We are committed to being a supportive and driving force behind that change.

Image of scrabble letters spelling out the word vote

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