The Labour Party has today demanded that the government finally publish its plan to fix the intensifying social care crisis as Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised to do since becoming Prime Minister.
Deputy leader and party chair Angela Rayner is calling for part of the social care plan to guarantee that all social workers are paid at least the real living wage of £9.30 an hour, rising to £10.75 in London.
Highlighting that the median hourly wage for a care worker in the independent sector is just £8.10 per hour, which former care worker Rayner has described as “unconscionable”, Labour is turning up the pressure on social care.
Addressing the country on his first day in office in July 2019, Johnson said: “I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”
But no plan was presented in the Conservative Party manifesto ahead of the 2019 general election, which only stated that there should be “extra funding” and a “cross-party consensus” on what to do next for long-term reform.
Comments made earlier this week by Tory peer Lord Bethell, innovation minister for health and social care, has added to concerns that the government has no plan to address the overwhelming problems in the sector.
Lord Bethell told the upper chamber: “I cannot commit to a social care plan before the end of the year. It will require a huge amount of political collaboration and I suspect it will take longer than the next few months.”
Responding to the development, Rayner said: “On his first day in office, the Prime Minister promised to fix the crisis in social care with a plan he said he had already prepared. Now it turns out that it won’t be published until next year.
“He must publish his plan to fix the crisis in social care without any more delays, and that plan must guarantee all care workers are paid at least the real living wage.”
The Prime Minister clapped for carers during the early stages of the pandemic and tweeted about “our wonderful NHS and carers” and their “incredible, selfless work”.
Rayner has accused Johnson of offering care workers only “warm words”, saying that “applause and empty gestures don’t pay the rent or put the food on the table”. Social care workers will not benefit from the public sector pay rise announced in July.
The party chair added: “We can’t clap our key workers and then abandon them. We can’t go back to business as usual, where the very same people who have helped to get our country through this crisis are still underpaid and undervalued.”
Making the case that “the very least that our care workers deserve is a pay rise”, Rayner also highlighted that many “do not even have the right to the derisory statutory sick pay of £94.25 per week”.
She said: “They are left in an appalling position, forced to choose between going to work and putting vulnerable people at risk or doing the right thing, isolating at home and not being able to pay the bills.”
Rayner was a care worker for a number of years in Stockport, as well as a single mother and trade union representative for UNISON during that time, before rising up the ranks and being elected to parliament in 2015.
Jonathan Ashworth confirmed to LabourList in July this year that Labour still stands by its 2019 commitments to repealing the Health and Social Care Act, ending privatisation in the NHS and setting up a National Care Service.