As the election looms it appears that we are no closer to having a clear indication of who will be in government come June. The electorate will have their say on the 7th of May, with the playing fields seemingly level between the two main parties and a host of former outsiders looking to make significant inroads. Multiple competing views are represented and how social care policy care policy will look six months from now appears increasingly muddled. Whatever the outcome, the next parliament will be absolutely key to how the country balances cuts to spending with managing the needs of an ageing population stretching services to breaking point.
The manifestos are out, with Labour and the Conservatives placing down markers of their vision for the future of social care. The Conservatives, classically seen as the protectors of personal wealth, have focused their commitments on ensuring that people are protected from massive care costs by shifting payments to local authorities as per the Care Act. While this is good news for the individual, it fails to answer how councils – who are already struggling with their care bills – will fund this.
Labour, the traditional champions of the NHS and social care have stated that they wish to end the culture of fifteen-minute care visits, and bring an extra 15,000 homecare workers into the fold. While these address problems at the heart of social care in the UK, funding again fails to be accounted for – an issue that lies at the heart of the challenge.
The other parties see this election as their opportunity to have a much greater say by being brought into government, with pundits stating that no party is likely to have a majority. The Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party all have a vision of a more integrated health and social care system to some degree, but are vague on both details and funding strategies. The SNP meanwhile have yet to nail their flag to the mast on social care. While these parties stand no chance of governing alone, they each have the potential to shape any would-be coalition’s social care policy.
Talking about shaking up social care policy and delivery is easy, implementing it will prove to be far harder. While it is good to see the Parties opening up a discourse about the problems the industry is facing and how to combat them, the electorate deserve a realistic explanation of how solutions will be brought about. So far none of the parties have delivered this.