In his Labour party [virtual] conference speech, Sir Keir Starmer highlighted failures of the social care system in the last lockdown and the ‘decade of drift’ as successive Conservative prime ministers failed to tackle the looming social care timebomb.
And it seems there is no solution in sight. Last week heralded the news that the Government has decided not to publish the social care White Paper this year. It comes as no surprise – waiting expectantly for the White Paper is somewhat akin to waiting for the tooth fairy to appear. No one believes it is real anymore.
Sir Keir’s criticism is spot-on – social care during the pandemic has been a national disgrace. Constantly pushing social care solutions into the long grass is unforgivable – and a decade of austerity has utterly exacerbated the woeful state of the care sector.
But let’s not forget that Labour is not off the hook. The impending demographic and financial problems of adult social care were apparent long before a Conservative Government landed in Number 10.
This is a problem that spans the political divide – one for which both parties are culpable.
Sir Keir has the bit between his teeth. If there is no further action, he has threatened to set up a taskforce. The threat of yet another taskforce, consultation, investigation or political posturing exercise when the sector is close to breaking point fills me with dread – but I’m not sure the Government will be quaking.
The care home market is destroyed. Care workers are overworked and underpaid. And, worst of all, we exposed those most vulnerable to COVID. The best the Government can do is look again to see how they can centralise care through the NHS – a solution that will send costs spiralling and will wave goodbye to any hope.
All the while the cost of COVID is soaring. With a £3bn funding gap identified by the Institute for Fiscal Studies for COVID costs and a looming coronavirus spike, there desperately needs to be a solution to the care crisis – but it doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon.