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The Conservative manifesto is 76 pages, but hardly mentions social care

At Silverstone Rishi Sunak became the second political leader to deliver his parties manifesto ahead of the General Election. However, experts claim his plans for social care won’t be winning time a place on the podium any time soon.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivered the Conservative’s manifesto at Silverstone, Northamptonshire. Since its publication, critics have stated that the 76-page document is filled with weak pledges to cut taxes and re-gain control of the country’s spending, with little or no mention of how the party plan on tackling other problems England is facing, including the current health and social care crisis.

Within the manifesto the Conservatives have said that should they be re-elected they will go ahead with their proposal of an £86,000 cap on social care costs for people who are older or disabled in England. This means that no one would pay more than that for personal care over their lifetime. The idea would be introduced in October 2025, however the likelihood of that being true is slim as Rishi Sunak hasn’t confirmed how it will be funded.

Against this backdrop, experts from the Jospeh Rowntree Foundation have said that the Conservatives plans to help ease social care costs isolates unpaid carers who are struggling at home. According to the most recent research from the charity, 72% of low-income households with caring responsibilities reported going without essentials like food, heating and showers in the last six months. Figures also found that 57% of the same group of individuals reported dealing with food insecurities (often or sometimes going hungry, cutting or skipping meals) in the last 30 days.

In addition to announcing the social care cap, Rishi Sunak also highlighted plans to increase NHS spending above inflation every year and hire over 90,000 more doctors and nurses to help healthcare in England. Although industry experts have pointed out that this won’t be possible if the conservative’s also plan on introducing 2p National Insurance cuts.

‘The Conservative manifesto promise to increase NHS spending above inflation every year and hire 92,000 more nurses and 28,000 more doctors sounds great, but here’s the catch: they also want to cut National Insurance by 2p. How will they fund these big healthcare plans with less tax revenue? It doesn’t add up,’ Dr Charles Armitage, former NHS doctor and founder of the staffing app Florence, said. ‘Their solution to cut 5,500 NHS managers to redirect £550m in funds won’t go far enough to fill the gap and is hopelessly flawed in itself. Effective management is crucial for our healthcare system running smoothly, and removing further layers of it will result in overburdening frontline staff with non-clinical and admin tasks that will only stretch them further.’

Dr Armitage added: ‘Plus, 43% of England’s care workers earn less than the real living wage. Paying them fairly is key to keeping skilled workers and improving care quality. The net cost of paying all care workers a real living wage is £330 million – less than 2% of the current social care budget; but Sunak seems to have no plan for retaining and rewarding our skilled healthcare workforce in these real and practical terms.

‘Cutting taxes while increasing spending is an unworkable balance, and I’m ultimately sceptical that these manifesto promises will actually work to fix our struggling health and social care system.’

The news of Rishi Sunak delivering his parties Manifesto has come just a day after Sir Ed Davey revealed the Liberal Democrats plans for the country, should they be successful in the election next month.

Looking at both of the parties plans for health and social care, Suhail Mirza, non-executive director at Newcross Healthcare, outlined that more detail is needed for how leaders intend on implementing their ideas for health and social care because as it stands it feels like false hope.

Mirza said: ‘It is welcomed to see the mention of social care charging reforms (with a £86,000 lifetime limit on social care costs) albeit this was promised before and then kicked into the long grass. There is, alas, no meaningful commitment to properly fund the sector without which commissioning, care delivery and effective workforce within it will all suffer.

‘By contrast the Liberal Democrats have been bold enough to call for free personal care in England, increases in levels of pay (at a rate of £2 above the standard minimum wage) for care professionals and a Royal College for Care Professionals.’

‘There have been reports that the Labour Party will introduce a £12 per hour minimum wage for carers; if this is so then it is welcomed but there must be detailed policy priority to fully fund the sector and roll back the regressive impact of underfunding which has brought the sector to its current crisis,’ Mirza added. ‘Social care continues to be discussed in the rhetoric of costs when it should be viewed through the lense of the contribution it makes to our society.’  

Image: Shutterstock

More on this topic:

General Election 2024: Will this be the year of social care?

Reaction to Labour’s plans to slash NHS wait times

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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