Labour sets out vision for National Care Service

Elliot Chappell

Labour will set out its vision for a National Care Service on Monday, which would see free personal care offered to older people – ensuring dignity, security and independent living.

The new policy announcement will be made at Labour conference in Brighton by both John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor and Barbara Keeley as shadow minister for mental health and social care.

They will tell party members and trade union delegates about their plan to address the funding gap in social care, reduce outsourcing via support for councils, and improve support for the care workforce – all with the aim of allowing older people to live independently in their homes.

The type of help offered will include free personal care for older people, providing help with daily tasks such as getting in and out of bed, bathing and washing and preparing meals in their own home.

In his conference speech, McDonnell is expected to say: “The truth is our social care sector is a national scandal.” He will point to sweeping cuts to local authority budgets that have taken £8bn from council social care budgets since 2010.

On the impact of austerity, the Shadow Chancellor will say: “The result is one million people not getting the care they need. More than five million unpaid carers looking after loved ones, and 87 people dying a day waiting for care.”

Keeley will also talk about the impact of severe cuts to social care tomorrow, saying: “Our plans for social care will address the immediate crisis in care, double the number of people receiving publicly-funded care, and stop people with dementia being treated unfairly by the care system.”

Currently, only those with very low levels of savings receive publicly-funded care, and people with dementia face the highest costs for their care.

The Kings Fund estimates that the Labour Party’s plan for free personal care would cost around £6bn in 2020-21. Yet when free personal care was introduced in Scotland, the number of people receiving such care doubled – but the cost was offset by a reduction in costly hospital admissions.

The GMB national secretary, Rehana Azam, has welcomed Labour’s National Care Service plan, saying: “It’s welcome to see Labour putting forward a bold plan to fix a social care sector that has been left to crumble around our ears.

“The Shadow Chancellor has made a bold and welcome commitment not only to championing the role and contribution of care workers but to delivering the pay, working conditions and access to professional development that any working professional should expect.”

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