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Special Report: What the main political parties pledge on social care

Clare Jerrom takes a look at what the three main political parties are pledging on social care ahead of the forthcoming general election.

The Conservative Party

“Britain should be the best country in the world for children. We want to reduce levels of child poverty, and have high ambitions for the quality of childcare, children’s health and support for vulnerable children for whom the state acts as a parent.”

Protecting vulnerable children and families

The Conservative Party states that it has made “significant progress” in helping vulnerable children and families over the past seven years by investing in the social work profession.

Its manifesto acknowledges that “placing a child under the oversight of social services and taking a child into care are amongst the most serious duties the state may discharge”.

A Conservative government will:

  • Demand all local authorities be commissioners of the highest-quality family support and child protection services, removing these responsibilities from the weakest councils and placing them in trust.
  • Ensure that councils provide consistency of care and cannot relocate vulnerable children far from their home when it is not in their best interests to do so.
  • Review support for Children in Need to understand why their outcomes are so poor and what more support they might require, in and out of school.
  • Explore ways to improve the family justice system saying, “the family courts need to do more to support families, valuing the roles of mothers and fathers, while ensuring parents face up to their responsibilities”.

Children and young people’s health

“We understand the massively increased pressures on young people’s mental health. We will take focused action to provide the support needed by children and young people. Half of all mental health conditions become established in people before the age of fourteen”.

A Conservative government will:

  • Ensure better access to care for children and young people.
  • Publish a green paper on young people’s mental health before the end of this year.
  • Introduce mental health first aid training for teachers in every primary and secondary school by the end of the parliament
  • Ensure that every school has a single point of contact with mental health services.
  • Ensure every child will learn about mental wellbeing and the mental health risks of internet harms in the curriculum.
  • Reform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services so that children with serious conditions are seen within an appropriate timeframe and no child has to leave their local area and their family to receive normal treatment.

The Tory manifesto also pledges to continue to take action to reduce childhood obesity by providing clearer food information for consumers and continuing to support school sport.

Social care

“Where others have failed to lead, we will act. We have already taken immediate action, putting £2 billion into the social care system and allowing councils to raise more money for care themselves from Council Tax. We are now proposing medium and long-term solutions to put elderly care in our country on a strong and stable footing.”

A Conservative government will:

  • Firstly, the Tories will align the future basis for means-testing for domiciliary care with that for residential care, so that people are looked after in the place that is best for them. This will mean that the value of the family home will be taken into account along with other assets and income, whether care is provided at home, or in a residential or nursing care home.
  • Secondly, to ensure this is fair, they will introduce a single capital floor, set at £100,000, more than four times the current means test threshold. This will ensure that, no matter how large the cost of care turns out to be, people will always retain at least £100,000 of their savings and assets, including value in the family home.
  • Thirdly, they will extend the current freedom to defer payments for residential care to those receiving care at home, so no-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for care.

In addition, they will:

  • Publish a green paper to address system-wide issues to improve the quality of care and reduce variation in practice, to ensure the care system works better with the NHS to reduce unnecessary and unhealthy hospital stays and delayed transfers of care, and provide better quality assurance within the care sector.
  • Promote technological solutions to prolong independent living and tackle loneliness, and invest in dementia research.
  • Give workers a new statutory entitlement to carer’s leave, as enjoyed in other countries.
  • Means-test Winter Fuel Payments, focusing assistance on the least well-off pensioners, who are most at risk of fuel poverty. The money released will be transferred directly to health and social care, helping to provide dignity and care to the most vulnerable pensioners and reassurance to their families.

Conservative Party Manifesto

The Labour Party

“Labour believes in devolving power to local communities but that requires the necessary funding follows. You cannot empower local government if you impoverish it,” says the Labour manifesto. “A Labour government will give local government extra funding next year.”

Social work

A Labour government will:

  • Continue to support all training routes for social workers, including initial social work training provided within or accredited by a higher education institution.
  • Prevent the private sector and subsidiaries of private companies from running child protection services.
  • Deliver earlier protection to victims of abuse by strengthening mandatory reporting, and guaranteeing allegations will be reported and action taken to make children safe.
  • Refocus social care to work with families in local communities to prevent children becoming at risk of going into care.

Children’s services

“The government is currently failing to develop a strategy for the wholesale improvement of the care system that delivers for all, not just those children being considered for adoption.”

A Labour government will:

  • Promote the care and educational achievement of the most vulnerable children
  • Increase support for children in kinship and foster care, and their families.
  • Support further regulation of commercial fostering agencies
  • Commission a review on establishing a national fostering service.
  • Extend ‘Staying Put’ arrangements to support all children and young people in residential and other forms of care until they are 21.
  • Enshrine the European Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.

Public health

“For our health and care services to be sustainable in the long term, we need a renewed commitment to keeping people fit and well. Labour will focus our efforts on children’s health, protecting the wellbeing of the nation for the decades to come.”

Labour will:

  • Invest in children’s health, bringing in a new government ambition for our children to be the healthiest in the world.
  • Introduce a new Index of Child Health to measure progress against international standards, and report annually against four key indicators: obesity, dental health, under-fives and mental health.
  • Set up a new £250 million Children’s Health Fund to support their ambitions.
  • Increase the number of health visitors and school nurses, as part of a preventative healthcare drive.
  • Publish a new childhood obesity strategy within the first 100 days, with proposals on advertising and food labelling.
  • Implement a strategy for the children of alcoholics based on recommendations drawn up by independent experts.
  • Implement a Tobacco Control Plan, focusing on issues of mental health and young smokers.
  • Maintain a commitment to improve sexual-health services, especially HIV services which will include reducing the rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV, ending the stigma of HIV in society, and promoting the increased availability of testing and treatment.

A National Care Service

"Our social care sector is in crisis, with severe consequences for the quality of care, public finances, personal assets, pressures on unpaid carers of family and friends, and delays to discharging patients from hospitals.

A Labour government will:

  • Lay the foundations of a National Care Service for England in the first term, with the first task being to address the immediate funding crisis.
  • Increase the social care budgets by a further £8 billion over the lifetime of the next Parliament, including an additional £1 billion for the first year.

The National Care Service will be built alongside the NHS, with a shared requirement for single commissioning, partnership arrangements, pooled budgets and joint working arrangements. It will build capacity to move quickly towards a joined-up service that will signpost users to all the appropriate services at the gateway through which they arrive.

A Labour government will seek consensus on a cross-party basis about how it should be funded, with options including wealth taxes, an employer care contribution or a new social care levy.

“Providing dignity and care in old age should transcend party politics and campaign slogans.”

Mental health

“Labour will invest in early intervention by increasing the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people.”

A Labour government will:

  • Ensure that access to a counselling service is available for all children in secondary schools.
  • Ask the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to evaluate the potential for increasing the range of evidence-based psychological therapies on offer.

The Labour Party manifesto

The Liberal Democrats

Saving the NHS and social care

“The NHS and social care services are in a state of crisis.”
The Liberal Democrats will:

  1. Introduce an immediate 1p rise on the basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax to raise £6 billion additional revenue which would be ring-fenced to be spent only on NHS and social care services.
  2. Direct this additional investment to the following priority areas in the health and care system: social care, primary care (and other out-of-hospital care), mental health and public health. This represents the most efficient and effective way of spending these extra resources – ensuring they will have the greatest impact on the quality of care patients receive.
  3. In the longer term and as a replacement for the 1p Income Tax rise, commission the development of a dedicated Health and Care Tax on the basis of wide consultation, possibly based on a reform of National Insurance contributions, which will bring together spending on both services into a collective budget and sets out transparently, on people’s payslips, what we spend on them.
  4. Establish a cross-party health and social care convention to carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of the health and social care finances and workforce, and the practicalities of greater integration.
  5. Introduce a statutory independent budget monitoring agency for health and care, similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This would report every three years on how much money the system needs to deliver safe and sustainable treatment and care.The Liberal Democrats longer-term objective will be to bring together NHS and social care into one seamless service – pooling budgets in every area by 2020 and developing integrated care organisations.

Equal care for mental health

“We know that not enough resources reach front-line services and that in the fight for parity of esteem there is still a very long way to go.”

The Liberal Democrats will:

  • Ring-fence funding from within the one penny Income Tax rise, to provide additional investment in mental health
  • Continue to roll out access and waiting time standards for children, young people and adults. This will include a guarantee that people will not wait more than six weeks for therapy for depression or anxiety, and no young person will wait more than two weeks for treatment when they experience a first episode of psychosis.
  • Increase access to clinically- and cost-effective talking therapies so that hundreds of thousands more people can receive this support.
  • Examine the case for introducing a dedicated service for children and young people based on the Australian ‘headspace’ model and building on many excellent Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services.
  • Transform mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, and help them get early care when needed.
  • Continue to promote and invest in the Frontline programme to fast-track exceptional graduates into children’s social work, as well as the Think Ahead scheme aimed at encouraging high-achieving graduates to pursue a career in mental health social work.
  • Ensure that no one in crisis is turned away, with new waiting time standards and better crisis care in Accident and Emergency, in the community and via phone lines. This will enable us to end the use of police cells for people facing a mental health crisis.
  • End out of area placements, ensuring those admitted to hospital for mental ill-health are able to be treated close to home.
  • Ensure that all frontline public service professionals, including in schools and universities, receive better training in mental health.
  • Roll out the Liaison and Diversion programme nationally, helping to identify people who have mental health problems, learning disabilities, substance misuse or other vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system
  • Tackle stigma against mental ill-health, including by building on the good work done by organisations like Heads Together and changing the standard of proof in suicide conclusions in the Coroner's Court.
  • Ensure that LGBT+ inclusive mental health services receive funding and support.

Helping people stay healthy

“It is better for patients and for the NHS if we keep people healthy in the first place, rather than just waiting until people develop illnesses and come for treatment, but 40% of NHS spending is on diseases that are preventable. We need to do more to promote healthy eating and exercise, making people aware of the dangers of smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs, and helping to improve mental health and wellbeing.”

The Liberal Democrats will:

  • Move towards a health and social care system that empowers and encourages people to better manage their own health and conditions and to live healthier lives.
  • Publish a National Wellbeing Strategy, which puts better health and wellbeing for all at the heart of government policy.
  • Make Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention available on the NHS.
  • Support effective public awareness campaigns like Be Clear on Cancer and learn from what works when designing new health promotion campaigns to change behaviour.
  • Keep public health within local government, where it is effectively joined-up with preventive community services, and re-instate the funding cut from public health budgets by the Conservatives.
  • Develop a strategy to tackle childhood obesity
  • Encourage the traffic light labelling system for food products and publication of information on calorie, fat, sugar and salt content in restaurants and takeaways.
  • Introduce mandatory targets on sugar reduction for food and drink producers.
  • Reduce smoking rates, introducing a levy on tobacco companies so they fairly contribute to the costs of health care and smoking cessation services.
  • Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, subject to the final outcome of the legal challenge in Scotland.
  • Develop a public health campaign promoting the steps people can take to improve their own mental resilience – the wellbeing equivalent of the ‘Five a Day’ campaign.
  • Support good practice among employers in promoting wellbeing and ensure people with mental health problems get the help they need to stay in or find work, with a ‘Wellbeing Premium’ to reward employers who take clear action to measurably improve the health of their employees.

The Liberal Democrats manifesto

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