Yesterday I strongly voted against the Tories regressive tax plan, which also fails to address the systemic issues within social care. The Covid pandemic has brought to light what many of us have been arguing for years – that social care is in desperate need of reform and long-term investment.
However the Health and Social Care Levy is a manifesto-breaking, economically damaging, unfair tax on jobs. This is the biggest rise in taxes on families for over 50 years, with no thought to the impact on working people. As a result hard working families and recovering businesses will be left to shoulder the vast majority of the burden.
There is no doubt that our social care system is in complete crisis and needs huge reform, but funding for this needs to be raised in the fairest way. This does not mean taxing the young and those struggling to get by. I am calling for a wealth tax, so those with the broadest shoulders must bear the greatest burden. People who earn money from stocks, shares and dividends must pay their fair share.
Simply increasing National Insurance to pay for social care is fundamentally regressive and unfair and I will not stand by and just watch while the Tories tax jobs and force people to pay more in this totally inequitable way.
Furthermore the Tory proposals will also do nothing to fix the social care crisis, missing the long-term plan of reform and investment our NHS and social care system needs.
For example under the Prime Minister’s plan many people will still have to sell their homes to afford the cost of care. For example, someone with £186k in assets including their home facing large costs because they have to go into care, would have to pay £86k. And that’s before living costs.
Even before the virus struck, social care services were stretched to breaking point with a workforce that was undervalued and underpaid. Over the past ten years, the Conservatives have undermined the foundations of social care with an £8 billion cut from council care budgets, despite growing demand. Carers have been left to work on poverty wages, without secure contracts, and over 100,000 vacancies.
Therefore in the last Parliament I established a cross-party group on social care, which worked with trade unions representing care workers and social care providers to establish plans to improve the care workforce, their wages, training and terms and conditions. I have worked across Parliament to raise this on numerous occasions and will continue to make the case.
These problems will become even starker as increased life expectancy inevitably leads to further demand for care. 1 in 4 babies born today are set to live to 100 years old and, without a plan in place, the care system will not keep up. By refusing to provide a long-term strategy for social care, the Government is letting down the millions of people who receive care now and millions more will come to rely on it in the years ahead.
Boris Johnson is also failing the social care workforce, which is beset by low pay, insecurity and endemic stress. Social care has an over 30 per cent turnover rate for good reasons. Low pay is endemic, travel time is commonly unpaid, training is too often inadequate and the chance of developing skills and a career is far too scarce. It is no surprise that on any given day there are 110,000 vacancies in the sector.
This reform must also make sure that care workers are paid properly and provided with the skills and training they need. We must also ensure that the care system is fully integrated with the NHS so that it works better for everyone.
In government, Labour would empower people to live independently for as long as possible, while giving care users and their families greater say and control. Labour’s priorities are for a care system that puts ‘home first’, by shifting support towards prevention and early help. We’d also link up health and social care services to deliver a properly integrated system, while transforming pay, training and working conditions for staff. And we’ll also build a strong and skilled social care workforce, with a new deal for care workers to create a well-motivated, skilled and properly rewarded workforce, with more support for unpaid carers.
This is a problem that needs fixing now, with a solution that’s fit for the future. That’s why we’re offering to work with the Conservatives to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan to fix social care.Ithttp://care.It is possible and, indeed, necessary to bring about these changes and overhaul our social care system. Doing so will improve life for millions of people – but it will require levels of ambition and action from a Government which have so far been entirely lacking.
We’re honest that this additional investment would need to be paid for through additional tax rises, but increasing National Insurance contributions isn’t the right way to do it, hitting working people – especially low earners and young people – and businesses hard. The wealthiest should be asked to contribute more, that taxes to pay for social care should be fair across the generations, and that all forms of income are considered – including shares, dividends and property.
I will continue to press the Government to reconsider this short-sighted and unsuitable plan for social care.