Organisations working within the social care sector have said that they are “extremely disappointed” by the lack of detailed policy announcements in the Queen’s speech.
Although the Queen announced two significant new pieces of legislation for the charity sector, including plans to roll out the Dormant Assets Bill and Charities Bill, little was said regarding specific provision for the social care sector.
Independent Age, Action for Children and the King's Fund were among those to express concerns.
‘The can, yet again, has been kicked down the road’
Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Independent Age, said “after years of delays and broken promises, we are extremely disappointed by the lack of detailed policy announcements in the Queen’s speech to reform adult social care”.
She added she was concerned that fixing issues has been delayed, once more.
“Many people in later life, and those who care for them, need a social care system they can rely on. We are frustrated that the can, yet again, has been kicked down the road, despite this government promising in 2019 that it would transform our social care system. Vague slogans won’t ensure people receive the care and support they need,” she said.
She added: “Over the last few months we have seen how quickly the government can spring into action when motivated to do so” and “similar levels of energy and commitment are needed when it comes to reforming social care for everyone who needs it.”
Alsina called for proposals that clarify and simplify what people are entitled to, improve access so everyone with care needs has these met, support essential family carers, fairly spread the financial burden of catastrophic costs, and pay professional carers more while developing a clear workforce strategy.
“It’s clear there are no quick fixes, and small tweaks won’t suffice. The government must meet the moment and deliver bold forms to ensure that those in later life and their families can live with dignity, choice and purpose,” she said.
‘We won’t be able to level up if life chances are pushed down by deepening inequalities’
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said he was concerned that “we won’t be able to ‘Build Back Better’ if the generation that will be the foundation for the future is weakened by poverty and a mental health crisis”.
He said: “We won’t be able to level up if life chances are pushed down by deepening inequalities exposed by the pandemic. We won’t recover as a society unless we put all our efforts into providing greater support and investment in children. This generation of children have had their childhoods and life chances damaged and disrupted by the pandemic. So, it is disappointing to see so little detail of greater support for children in the government’s plans. Now is the time for the government to step up and stop sweeping children’s needs under the carpet.”
‘The NHS and social care are sister services – if one suffers so does the other’
Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said the policy announcement “once again stops short of a meaningful commitment to reform England’s broken social care system”.
He added: “The focus on supporting the NHS to recover from the last year is welcome, but for that to succeed there must be equal focus on ensuring social care and public health services also recover, along with a long-term workforce plan that addresses staff shortages, tackles staff stress and burnout by improving working cultures and recognises the impact of the last year on staff well-being.”
Murray noted that the Health and Care Bill “signals a welcome step towards delivering integrated care centred around the needs of patients”.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chair of the Health for Care Coalition, said: “Nearly two years ago, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, delivering his first speech, promised the nation that his government would finally address decades of delay and ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all’. Yet two years into his premiership, this promise has failed to materialise.
“It is disappointing and disheartening that the government has once again kicked the issue into the long grass, which means the very real risk that no real progress will now be made on this issue during this parliament. Social care reform is desperately required, and we need a timetable for reform now, not at some distant future point, and this must be coupled with significant long-term investment.
“The NHS and social care are sister services – if one suffers so does the other – and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how fragile and in dire need of reform England’s social care system has become. A well-funded and good quality social care sector is vital to a healthy nation and a strong and well-performing NHS; reform must no longer be delayed.”
He added some of the government’s proposals laid out are “a step in the right direction in helping to redress some of the damage”, so the announcement of additional funding will go some way to addressing the impact of the pandemic.