Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

‘Care is part of our national infrastructure’

Sarah Hayward responds to Karin Smyth’s article Beyond the rhetoric

There is a crisis brewing in care and Karin Smyth is right to identify it as a key issue for the next Labour government. As leader of a London borough I see first-hand how a cocktail of cuts to local government, the slow pace of integration and the lack of political focus mean that we are running out of time to act.

Camden, like pretty much every other Labour-run borough, is facing a funding crisis. In just a few years we could run out of money to provide anything but the statutory minimum requirement for children and adults. This would be devastating because in Camden we recognise that care is not just vital for the individual’s wellbeing but also our economy. At the moment we invest a huge amount of discretionary spend for both adults and children that help their carers to work. If carers can work it reduces poverty and the welfare bill and increases tax receipts. Aside from these immediate savings, good quality childcare and adult social care also prevent future spend because the people who receive these services thrive, reducing future spend on everything from criminal justice to the NHS.

But we have little time to act. Councils’ budgets have been slashed with discretionary services being squeezed in every budget round and chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens has identified a need for an extra £8bn up front to prevent £20bn of cuts by 2020.

Karin Smyth is right that care is part of our national infrastructure. People who cannot afford to entrust the care of their loved ones to local services are excluded from the workplace. Good quality care is as essential as good transport and broadband infrastructure but it just is not viewed in this same context. Overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, it is women who are excluded from work and economically disempowered.

If we do not act to integrate services and make them more efficient quickly then both the NHS and local councils could be forced to cut the skills that will make this possible.

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Sarah Hayward is leader of the London borough of Camden

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Sarah Hayward

is leader of Camden council. She tweets @Sarah_Hayward

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