On the 14th of October 2021, Meon Valley Labour members and leadership team had their monthly CLP meeting. The main focus of the meeting was to discuss policy ideas for social care policy, which will then get submitted to Labour Party Headquarters to help them develop policy on social care. If you would like join in the discussion and contribute your views and ideas regarding social care policy, you can make a submission via the Labour Party policy forum website here
Below are the details of what was discussed at our policy review:
A Better Plan For Social Care
Dan gave a very brief overview of the government’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan for social care, before opening the discussion to the group.
A leading opinion that came from members of the group was that the care sector should be taken over and controlled by social services, in a ‘National Care Service’. The policy ‘Towards a National Care Service’ was on the Labour Party 2019 Manifesto, which offered ‘personal care free at the point of use’, which is already available in Scotland, the ending of ‘zero-hours contracts’ in the sector, and a real living wage for care workers. This idea was popular among the group. One member voiced the concern about cost, that once the state provides all social care, it has to provide for all the unmet need too, and for those who are currently cared for by family members.
One attendee criticised the government’s proposed Levy as the extra funding is not made directly available to Local Authorities, who are responsible for the provision of care services. The cap of £86,000 that anybody must pay for social care during their lifetimes also brings down the amount of money that Local Authorities are getting, working against any increase in funding.
The training of care workers was highlighted as an essential area for improvement. The group heard anecdotal evidence from one member about the lack of basic medical knowledge displayed by visiting carers, who could not identify basic problems from clear symptoms, meaning that further intervention that would have helped the patient was not given. Care work is such an important part of society that it needs to be treated as a rewarding career with proper education, skills, qualifications and salaries. An ‘apprenticeship’ for caring was mentioned. Care work should be a profession. This is something that would have to be fed into the sector to improve the knowledge of current carers who may be lacking, creating a standard across all care work.
The policy of ending zero-hours contracts was backed by members of the group. One member told us of the pressures that visiting carers experience in their job. Their working hours are only counted when they are actually at a patient’s home, not on the drives between. Increasing fuel prices are a drain on the pay packet, and carers may be working 12 to 16 hours a day. Working time directives are needed like those for HGV drivers.
It is recognised that much of care work is carried out by ‘unpaid carers’ who care for family members. These carers can receive £67.70 from the state if they spend at least 35 hours a week caring, as long as they do not earn over £128 a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses. This seems to be a low earning threshold, and would discourage people from working as much as they may otherwise be willing to, at a time when the labour market is undersupplied. The point was also made that employers should be flexible for caregivers, particularly by offering reduced hours, and not discriminating against them in the hiring process.
The group also highlighted integration between social care and the NHS as a priority. This would allow for a better chance of early intervention in peoples’ ill health, easing the demand for both services. Technology would make this more efficient now than it ever has been before. It would help keep people out of care homes and put more focus on supported living.
Meon Valley Labour