The recent announcement of a general election came as a surprise, and Theresa May’s decision to hold one as soon as June left of her political opponents scrambling to fill their manifestos. The dominance of Brexit on the political agenda has naturally meant it has taken centre stage in the run-up to the election. However, the fact is there are many social issues aside from Brexit that require urgent attention – not least the dire state of the country’s social care sector. Here are the three key policy areas the next government must focus on:
A solution to social care funding
At the heart of the problems facing social care is a lack of funding, and whoever finds themselves in government come June must do something to improve the sector’s finances. While emergency extra funds like the £2bn administered by the Chancellor in March can plug immediate gaps, several charities like Age UK have correctly pointed out that this won’t change the sector’s long-term fortunes.
Policymakers should instead look at long-term financial solutions that will help meet growing demand for social care. Although a social care tax requires significant scrutiny before being implemented, the fact that research reveals a majority of Britons would happily increase their council tax bills to eliminate the funding gap shows innovative policies like this could be well received.
A solution to social care staffing
Another huge challenge facing the social care sector that policymakers must address are the pressures facing its staff across the country. Cuts to local authority government funding put pressure on Councils’ already stretched resources, which means care workers must work longer hours while still carrying out their duties effectively, safely, and quickly. Reducing immigration is likely to be a central aim of the government after the election, but they simply must make concessions for social care workers here.
The residential social care model is expensive, and isn’t the best option for every individual. With the cost of residential care rising, and the number of elderly people growing, the government must place a greater emphasis on delivering social care to people in their own homes. This can reduce the burden of care on public finances and is the optimal choice for those who would like to receive care in the comfort of their own homes.
While the government’s £2bn cash injection into the sector was a welcome announcement in the spring budget, the entire social care system remains under extreme financial pressure. A paper published by the Health Foundation in May found that a shocking 400,000 fewer people in England are receiving the publicly funded care they require compared to 2009/10. With millions of people depending on a healthy and well-funded social care sector for their wellbeing, something must be done to address the issues facing it.