what the upcoming election means for social care
6 min read/Published On: June 24, 2024/1158 words/

What does the upcoming election mean for social care?

Since Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a general election for July 4th, many of us have been thinking about what it will mean for social care.

Social care is vital to millions across the UK who need care now or will need it in the future. As a sector, we face significant challenges, including recruitment and retention issues, the growing needs of an ageing population, and the financial and emotional pressures on unpaid carers. Given the importance of the sector and these pressing issues, we would love to see a focus on social care in all of the 2024 manifestos. However, past elections suggest it may not receive the attention it deserves during this summer’s campaigns.

Of course, Grey Matter Learning does not endorse any specific party, and this piece is based upon our observations and understandings derived from their publicly accessible manifestos. Our aim is to provide an overview of each party’s proposals related to social care, to inform and educate our readers about the potential impacts of the upcoming election on this critical sector.

With that said, let’s look at what each party promises ahead of the election.

Conservative Party promises to Social Care

conservative promises to social care

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party have outlined some plans for social care in their recent election announcement, though their focus remains predominantly on NHS investment. Historically, the Conservatives have faced criticism for not delivering on their promises to reform social care. Previous commitments, such as capping personal care costs and raising asset thresholds, were delayed, creating uncertainty about future reforms. So, only time will tell whether they will follow through with their pledge.

The Conservatives pledge to support a high-quality and sustainable system by building on their additional investment of £8.6 billion over the last two years and giving a multi-year funding settlement for local authorities. They plan to attract and retain a high-quality care workforce, make market reforms for older people’s housing, support unpaid carers, and cap social care costs from October 2025.

While they have made specific pledges for social care, their primary emphasis continues to be on enhancing the NHS, leaving some doubts about the extent and impact of their proposed social care reforms.

Labour Party promises to Social Care

Labour promises to social care

Labour’s manifesto does lay out a plan for social care reform. They claim to be committed to ensuring everyone can live an independent and prosperous life. They seem to be committed to reform in the social care sector due to inconsistent standards, chronic staff shortages, and the lack of dignity and respect in care provision. They propose creating a National Care Service underpinned by national standards to ensure consistent, high-quality care nationwide. Services will be locally delivered with a ‘home first’ principle to support independent living.

Labour also plans to enhance the partnership between the NHS and social care, especially on hospital discharge, and establish a Fair Pay Agreement in adult social care to set fair pay, terms, conditions, and training standards. Their vision includes:

  • Integrating healthcare into local communities.
  • Professionalising the workforce.
  • Building consensus for long-term reforms to create a sustainable National Care Service.

Liberal Democrats promises to Social Care

Liberal Democrats promises to social care

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto presents a detailed and focused health and social care plan that addresses several critical issues. We are excited to see such a strong emphasis on creating attractive careers in social care by introducing a Carer’s Minimum Wage, establishing clear career pathways, and forming a Royal College of Care Workers.

The manifesto also highlights support for unpaid carers through increased Carer’s Allowance, guaranteed regular respite breaks, and paid carer’s leave. Additionally, they advocate for free personal care with consistent funding, improved communication and digital strategies for personalised care, and establishing a National Care Agency to set minimum standards. Their approach aims to ensure high-quality care, support ageing well, and make social care an appealing career choice, showing a significant commitment to health and social care.

Green Party promises to Social Care

green party promises to social care

The Green Party appears to also be taking the health and social care sector seriously. Their recently released manifesto addresses the critical issues facing the sector, including the backlog of care reviews and assessments and the significant staff shortages.

To alleviate the pressure on the NHS and improve care quality, they have proposed a £20 billion investment in free personal care. This initiative is designed to ensure dignity for the elderly and disabled, with a focus on maintaining independence and well-being for those at home and providing fully funded personal care for those in residential settings.

We are also delighted that their manifesto highlights the need to increase pay rates and establish a career structure for carers to attract and retain staff in the sector. For those who cannot afford residential care costs, particularly when a spouse remains in the family home, local authorities would receive proper funding to offer financial support.

Reform UK

reform promises to social care

Reform UK’s manifesto does mention the health and social care sector, however, it focuses more on top level suggestions rather than their specific plans for social care.

Nigel Farage’s manifesto talks about initiating a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the social care system to develop a sustainable national plan. It calls for collaboration between central government, local authorities, social care providers, and home carer support groups, emphasising the need to streamline funding through a unified stream rather than the current split between the NHS and local authorities. It also stresses improved regulation to ensure high standards of care.

Additionally, Reform UK aims to address tax avoidance by larger care home providers, who use offshore structures to evade taxes while paying minimal wages to frontline staff. They propose ending these practices to ensure profits are taxed fairly and reinvested into improving care services and staff wages.

However, while these proposals highlight key areas of concern, fundamentally Reform UK’s manifesto lacks detailed plans for implementing these initiatives. The manifesto does not provide specific strategies or actionable steps to achieve the proposed reforms, leaving questions about the feasibility and practical execution of their vision for care.

The way forward

The upcoming election is a crucial opportunity for all parties to address critical issues in social care. Professor Pat Cullen, RCN General Secretary, has emphasised that party leaders should not use the NHS and social care as a tool in their political games. She has stated that voters care most about health and care services investment. They understand that these services are essential for a healthy society and economy. Politicians must now prove they have real solutions to fix the shortages of health and care workers and improve the population’s overall health.

The sector’s challenges are too significant to ignore. Addressing these issues head-on is essential for ensuring the well-being of millions of individuals who depend on social care services now and in the future. The election results will shape the future of social care, and the winning party must prioritise these urgent needs to build a more sustainable and compassionate care system for everyone.

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