Politics

Fury at Boris Johnson over dashed hopes for social care plan in Queen's Speech


Boris Johnson faces angry calls to finally deliver on his promise to fix the social care funding crisis after ministers dashed hopes it would feature in today’s Queen’s Speech.

The Prime Minister has been warned that more delays will lead to a “rocketing” number of elderly people desperately in need of support and struggling to pay the bills.

Ministers have downplayed suggestions that a full funding package will be published today – instead suggesting millions of elderly people will be left in limbo until later this year.

Social care funding is expected to be touched on in the programme of bills but there is unlikely to be any detail – even though Mr Johnson said he had a plan ready almost two years ago.

Tory insiders have admitted that a “fudge” is on the cards after the PM and Rishi Sunak failed in recent weeks to reach agreement on a long-term funding mechanism.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ” Boris Johnson made a solemn promise to the British people on the steps of Downing Street that he would quickly bring forward a solution to social care.

“The test of the Queen’s Speech today is whether he delivers on his word.

“The pandemic has shown the tragic folly of failing to invest and reform social care.

“After years of cuts and inaction we need change today.”



Boris Johnson's 'plan' for social care is unlikely to be in the Queen's Speech
Boris Johnson’s ‘plan’ for social care is unlikely to be in the Queen’s Speech

The Mirror’s ‘Fair Care for All’ campaign demands that the elderly are afforded proper care, dignity and security in old age and not abandoned.

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The pandemic has significantly increased the need for social care, with one in four elderly people finding it harder to carry out everyday activities.

Analysis showed that 23% of people aged 60 and over found activities like using the stairs, walking short distances, washing and preparing food had worsened.

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said: “It’s really sad that the pandemic has taken such a toll on the mobility, confidence and capacity of millions of older people to live independently without support.”

She added: “Before the pandemic we already knew that 1.6 million older people had some unmet need for care, but our new research means this awful statistic could rocket even higher this year unless the Government acts fast.

“We must never forget too that behind the cold statistics are real older people who with the right care and support could be living much happier, safer and healthier lives.”

Mr Johnson is understood to be interested in a plan from Sir Andrew Dilnot to cap costs for individuals at £45,000 with the state covering the rest.

But the Treasury and No 10 are understood to be stuck in talks over the cost with suggestions a funding package could require either dramatic cuts or tax rises up to £5bn a year.

Council leaders from across the political divide in England yesterday urged ministers to make good on their promise to fix social care.

The Local Government Association warned that a failure to act on long-promised social care reform would be a “bitter blow” for care staff and the millions they help.

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Care groups, charities and politicians have long been calling for the PM to deliver on the promise in his first speech after entering No 10 in July 2019.

When asked last week the PM was unable to guarantee that proposals would be detailed today, instead saying these would be brought forward in the “next few months”.

In a letter to the Chancellor, the LGA warned that one-off Government grants and the social care council tax precept were “sticking plaster solutions” when long-term funding was needed.

The social care system has been crumbling for more than a decade with the Covid pandemic laying bare how close it is to collapse.
Around 1.5m elderly people do not get the help they need.

Many are forced to depend on under-paid and over-stretched carers working for cash-strapped firms as councils make cuts.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said at the weekend that a social care reform plan would be “heading for the statute books” by the end of the year.

He said: “We’re working to make sure that we have an effective social care plan at the moment.

“So, by the end of the year you will have a specific social care plan that is heading for the statute books at the very least.

“We want to make sure that we can get cross-party support for it. That is critical.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

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Timeline

July 2019
Boris Johnson promised on the steps of Downing Street to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”. More than 22 months later no plan has been forthcoming as the Treasury and No 10 struggle to reach agreement on the cost.

May 2017
Theresa May was forced to announce a manifesto U-turn to announce an “absolute limit” on the amount people would have to pay for their care after it was dubbed a “dementia tax”. The policy cost her an overall majority at the general election.

July 2011
David Cameron commissioned social care expert Sir Andrew Dilnot to draw up a plan to cap costs for individuals at £45,000 with the state covering the rest, but then killed off the policy after he ditched the Lib Dems after the 2015 election.

March 2010
Labour health secretary Andy Burnham published a detailed plan for free home care for the neediest, free care for all care home residents after two years and eventually a National Care Service for all adults funded by compulsory contributions. It was branded a “death tax” by the Tories and never saw the light of day





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