Yesterday I questioned Boris Johnson after his announcement on a health and social care levy. The announcement had been intended to launch his longstanding plan to fix social care, but it did nothing of the sort. I challenged him on the fact that it wasn’t a plan, it didn’t set out any vision or detail, and it failed to demonstrate any understanding of the range of issues causing the crisis in social care.
Among many issues, the Prime Minister’s announcement didn’t deal with the way that care workers are underpaid and undervalued, the inadequacy of 15-minute domiciliary visits, or the difficulty in securing good residential care – the result of deep funding cuts. I highlighted his complete failure even to mention unpaid carers and young carers, an issue which I have pressed previously. He also conflated the care crisis with the backlog in the NHS – created partly by Covid-19 and partly by eleven years of underfunding.
Today MPs were forced to vote on his proposed levy, without being given any opportunity to seeing a plan for tackling the real crisis in social care. The money raised for social care will simply fund the costs of the new payment system – and provides no additional resources to improve care or address the issues we face. I voted against the levy because the government can’t explain how it will resolve the care crisis or clear the NHS backlog, and because it’s not a fair way of raising funds for health and care.
The NHS needs to be funded properly, as Labour did in government, and we need significant investment in social care, but using national insurance in this way to make good the damage done by years of underfunding, is unfair – hitting low earners and young workers harder. We do need tax rises, but the wealthiest should be asked to contribute more, on all forms of income – including shares, dividends and property.
We also need a solution to the real crisis in social care. People who need care should be given the chance to live the life they choose, with more emphasis on early help where relevant and at home where possible. We need a new deal for care workers, building a strong and skilled social care workforce, and real support for unpaid carers and young carers, who are too often forgotten.