Labour defends £10bn social care spending commitment

In an interview with online magazine, The Elder, Shadow Care Minister, Barbara Keeley defends her party’s ability to afford their social care spending plans.

Her comments come as the Liberal Democrats have proposed smaller increase in health and social care spending, and the conservatives have faced criticism by some for delaying reform of the sector. Labour’s policy for social care has been projected to cost £10.8 billion a year by 2023-2024, funded by income tax – charged to those earning £80,000 per year.

Many commentators are unsure the party will be able to deliver £1.2 trillion of total spending commitments over the next parliament. While Paul Johnson, head of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, called into question the scope of the policy, for not covering so-called ‘hotel costs’ charged by care homes.

Defending her party’s policy, Barbara Keeley said: ‘Most people believe that the state should cover the cost, and this is particularly true for people with low levels of savings.Labour believes that social care is a vital public service, which is why we propose to fund it through general taxation. Any perception that there isn’t the money isn’t correct. We don’t think that way about the health service where we talk of adding £26 billion funding The overall aim of the National Care Service is to increase the number of people who can live independently and stay in their own home. Although it’s estimated Labour’s total £100,000 cap on care costs would help over 70,000 people.’

Nigel Edwards, of the Nuffield Trust, warned against such optimistic numbers: ‘At £100,000 it would not protect a large majority of people whose needs are more modest but who may still face substantial costs. If the plan is to actually nationalise private health organisations, this will cost a large amount of money.’

Pete Dowds, CEO of Elder, who conducted the interview, questioned the impact on innovation in the care sector. He said: ‘Innovation, not nationalisation is crucial in solving the care crisis, and as well as money, we need to rethink what it actually means to grow old – where and how we’re going to live. As the population ages, it’s not going to be possible to raise the money, build the building, and recruit the staff fast enough for the traditional care home to be the solution.Reforming the social care system should look at the quality, as well as the number of years we live. That has to mean an end to the warehousing of the elderly in institutionalised settings.’