The Prime Minister today announced a tax hike to raise £36 billion over the next three years to take on the social care crisis and plug holes in the NHS budget.
Despite fears that the government risks an existential threat by breaking a clear manifesto commitment, the announcement was made this morning that National Insurance will rise by 1.25%, bringing an end to weeks of speculation as to the exact burden of the change, and placing the responsibility for taking care of the elderly squarely on the shoulders of the working population.
In the House of Commons this lunchtime Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the money raised will be hypothecated by law to be used solely for the costs of health and social care.
The changes mean that workers earning £30,000 a year will pay an extra £255 a year, rising to £500 a year for those on £50,000.
Around 25 million people pay National Insurance in the UK.
The government is also to abandon the ‘triple lock’ by which the state pension has been guaranteed to rise by either the rate of inflation, average earnings, or by 2.5%, whichever is the highest.
In the Commons, Johnson added: “Money from the levy is going directly to health and social care across the whole of or United Kingdom. This won’t be paid for pay awards for middle management – it will go straight to the front line at a time when we need to get more out of our health and social care system than ever before”
Professor Martin Green , Chief Executive of Care England, the body for independent providers of adult social care, responded: “We have been waiting for a very long time for any concrete plans on the long-term sustainability of adult social care reform and as such we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today. We want to go through the plans carefully and it is our hope that social care will be rewarded and recognised rather than playing second fiddle to the NHS. It is essential that money reaches the front line.
“The sector needs help now especially after the many challenges that became even more acute during the pandemic. We hope these plans will comprehensively address the issues across the whole adult social care sector, including younger adults with learning disabilities and autism. Recruitment and retention of workforce, our best resource, is the most urgent issue at present and it is vital that any long term plans can be brought into play alongside immediate measures. Care workers are everyday heroes and have highlighted their value throughout the pandemic and need to be rewarded and recognised appropriately.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) said: “We welcome the step forward in the government’s approach to social care – indeed, as the prime minister recognises, ‘governments have ducked this problem for decades’. The current government has in its power an opportunity to grasp an ambitious transformation agenda which puts people who use services, and their families and carers, in the driving seat of change.
“Current funding is simply not enough to ensure that everyone who needs to draw on social care can access early preventative support, and we are seeing fewer and fewer people able to access these essential services. Neither has funding been enough to guarantee the quality of longer-term support services which have become increasingly under strain.
“We are concerned that government’s approach to policy making could continue to leave disabled people living in England behind, as it has done so throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and we would encourage government to prioritise solutions that work for everyone and enables older and disabled people to lead independent and fulfilling lives, in their local communities.
“The government’s thinking around reform of social care has been older people’s care and selling family homes to pay for care. The funding of older people’s care is critical and there is no question the area warrants urgent reform. Yet the dominance of this focus has distracted from working age disabled people rights and entitlements, as set out in the Care Act. Social care reform must be examined through the lens of disability if it is to be inclusive and fit for purpose.
“The ‘cap and floor’ model, as presented today, will be appropriate for those people with their own assets, but we must not forget the needs of people with less means to pay. There will always be a cohort of people, both working age disabled adults and older people, with insufficient funds or assets to pay for their care. VODG believes that the needs of disabled people and older people must be considered equally and not, for example, reduced to decisions about levels of private wealth.
“Covid-19 has shone a bright light on the valuable role of care and support work. It is, however, a source of deep regret that care services are commissioned at minimum wage levels. A key test for VODG is whether funding reform will enable care and support workers to be lifted out of low pay. A 1.25% national insurance levy on workers will impact on lower paid staff, and this will effectively reduce take-home pay. Additional national insurance rises will also increase cost pressures on social care employers. We remain very concerned that commissioning of services is not at pace with the welcome uplifts to the National Minimum Wage.
“The provision of high-quality care and support services to people with lifelong disabilities is the hallmark of an equitable society that supports and protects its citizens. This must be rooted in a robust and sustainable social care system that has embedded within in it, investment, and support for voluntary sector service provision. Today’s announcement is a start, but there remains a long way to go to. We now need the detail on the reform packages to enable disabled people and their families, and support providers, to plan.”
Kirsty Matthews, chief executive of learning disability charity Hft said: “After numerous broken promises, years of waiting and a global pandemic, we are cautiously optimistic about today’s announcement on social care, which is the first step on a long road to much needed reform.
“The new health and social care levy will provide a healthy sum of £36 billion over the next three years. However, as estimated by the Health Foundation, £12 billion is required immediately to stabilise social care, and we are concerned the new funding will not sufficiently meet the needs of both the NHS and our sector as well as providing a long-term sustainable solution.
“We are keen to understand how the government plans to place social care on a sustainable footing. A funding solution must ensure providers no longer have to resort to handing back contracts, offering care to fewer people or making staff redundancies to mitigate cost pressures as illustrated by Hft’s Sector Pulse Check report.
“Any plans for social care reform must also address the multitude of other systematic issues in the sector such as high rates of staff attrition and low pay. The upcoming consultation on social care reform will therefore provide a vital opportunity for the needs of those who draw upon, and work within, social care to be expressed and addressed.
“We hope today is just the start of far-reaching and ambitious plans for social care, and we will engage fully with the upcoming legislative agenda including the White Paper on reform and the Bill to integrate social care with the NHS. Ultimately, this must result in a system which ensures all who need it receive good-quality care delivered with independence and choice in mind, rewards those who work in the sector with a professional status and fair pay, and grants long-term financial sustainability to providers.”
David Furness, director of policy at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said: “Today’s announcement of an additional £5.4 billion for the NHS for the second half of this year is a welcome boost. What is needed now is certainty over how this new resource will be allocated for independent providers delivering NHS services that will enable them to provide ongoing additional capacity to the NHS and help ensure patients get the care they need.
“And with waiting times at record levels, alongside additional funding, it’s vital that the government sets out a clear long-term plan on how patient access to NHS care will be restored, with a clear role for independent sector providers who are committed to playing their full part in the recovery of the health service post-Covid”
Date published: September 7, 2021