Thank you for writing to me about social care reform. This is an especially important issue to me, and something I think it is vital we get right as a top priority.
Devon is a wonderful place for people to come and retire. As a consequence, we have many older people living here with significant social care needs. But we don’t have the social care provision, never mind the budget to provide it. According to Age UK, we have 39,853 individuals over 65 who have unmet social care needs in Devon, 3,614 of those are in Teignbridge. We have made a commitment to the British people, and we must keep it. Now is the time for action. No more talk, no more reports and no more commissions. This is the time for this Government, with a significant majority, to deliver on social care promises. And that was the proposition I put to ministers in the House as we debated the social care challenge recently.
We have had three Royal Commissions, which commissioning governments of all colours have not implemented. The Care Act in 2012 was supposed to sort the problem – but it didn’t, which is partly why Part 2 of the Act was never implemented. So government need to face up to the people, explain what really needs doing and what it will cost. There is violent agreement on the problem but equally violent disagreement on the solution. Cross party talks – nice ambition but that time has passed. And it is the rural areas like ours which will face the problem first if it’s not fixed. So we need a short term fix and a long term plan. Neither are just about money.
So my suggestion for a short term fix– raise the capital sum you can have and keep before the state steps in to £100,000. Lower the need level so more people qualify for support. Raise income tax and set out each year, what has been spent on social care, and what it has achieved. Longer term, we need to devise a funding solution which is a mix of saving, insurance and taxation. And all of this needs to be supported by a wellbeing agenda which promotes and supports us each taking more responsibility for our own health. It’s not rocket science – let’s get on with it!
Regarding the Queen’s Speech, it is unthinkable that the long-awaited reforms to social care will not be in the speech. Successive governments of all colours have failed to grasp social care reform, often placing it in the ‘too difficult’ category. Not only is this unacceptable, it’s getting the point where it is simply unsustainable; the social care system desperately requires reform. I have made frequent representations to government about this and will be incredibly vocal if it is missing from the speech. The Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used as a convenient excuse to avoid reform, if anything, it has clear shown and indeed accelerated the need for urgent reforms and conversations to take place!