Taken together the changes in care Labour has promised will be transformative
At the start of the 20th century, life expectancy in Britain was under 50 years. Now, one in three new babies will live to 100. This change will transform our nation.
Longer life is a blessing. Yet justice requires we do far more to help all older people enjoy that blessing.
Without big changes, older people and their families will suffer. Already six million of us care for our elderly or disabled relatives, with many facing a desperate daily struggle to hold down work, make ends meet or get a decent break.
Because we knew family life was changing, the last Labour government put childcare at the top of the political agenda. The next Labour government will do the same for social care.
The hopes and needs of older people and their families will be our inspiration and, as we make progress, we should never be afraid to say more remains to be done, and campaign with them to go further still. Our first step will be to reduce immediate pressures and set the stage for reform by recruiting 5,000 more homecare workers paid for by our NHS Time to Care fund.
Then we will answer the demand for simpler care services. Today, carers of people with complex needs have to contact countless different professionals just to get the help they need. This is deeply frustrating, time-consuming and wasteful.
So we will give families caring the right to a single point of contact with care services, backed up by a single team to meet people’s physical, mental and social care needs.
These changes will be underpinned by a new ‘year of care’ budget that will help radically shift the focus of services towards prevention. Investing in district nurses, high-quality care visits and home adaptations help avoid the need for more expensive hospital admissions and get people back out of hospital more quickly too.
Crucially, Labour will put family carers – who provide the vast majority of support for frail older people – at the top of our agenda. Being the voice of carers means understanding what makes their lives harder and taking swift action. That is why we will immediately abolish the bedroom tax, which has hurt so many family carers. We will also give carers the right to an annual health check and make sure they get proper breaks. It is unacceptable that one in three family carers have to give up work or reduce their hours because they cannot get the help they need. So we champion far more flexible working for family carers, working in partnership with unions and employers. Even with better help, families simply cannot do it all, so we have got to make caring for others a career that people want and aspire to do. This is a huge challenge. Half of care companies inspected by HMRC pay carers less than the minimum wage because they do not pay for travel times, while 15-minute home visits and unreliable zero-hours contracts make it impossible to get to know the people you are caring for. This must change. The next Labour government will increase the minimum wage to £8 an hour and double fines for bad employers. We will tackle the scandal of 15-minute visits and end exploitative zero-hours contracts.
Whether you care for your family or caring is your profession you need a government that values your contribution and backs your efforts. You do not need a government that slashes council care budgets by £3.7bn, pulling the rug from under your feet.
But we cannot make the changes people desperately need on our own. We can only do it by working with older people, their families, NHS and care staff, voluntary groups, unions and businesses. Taken together – and done with the users and staff on the frontline – the changes we have promised will be transformative. Built by a movement that is the voice of all who care for others, Labour will improve life for millions.
Liz Kendall MP is shadow minister for care and a vice-chair of Progress
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