Labour has announced plans to fund free personal care for older people in England, if the party wins the next general election, as part of a wider pledge to tackle the ongoing social care crisis.
The plan will see the current number of older people receiving state-funded doubled, at a cost of around £6bn to taxpayers.
Labour claim this will help to “reduce the number of people facing catastrophic costs for their care”, and also ensure that every older person receives the same level of quality care regardless of their medical conditions.
The Party says their plans would also “reduce the burden on unpaid [family] carers and benefit the NHS by reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital and admissions to care homes and hospitals”.
Labour has also pledged to raise standards of care by ending the use of zero-hour contracts, which they claim would ensure that carers are paid a real living wage, including for travel time, and improve access to training and development for care staff.
Announcing Labour’s policy in a speech at the Labour Party Conference on Monday, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is expected to say: “I believe the right to dignity in retirement is a part of that right to health at any stage of life.
“The truth is our social care sector is a national scandal. Nearly £8bn taken from council budgets for social care since 2010.
“The result is one million people not getting the care they need. 87 people dying a day waiting for care. More than five million unpaid carers looking after loved ones
“And overworked, underpaid care workers only being allowed ten minute visits to those they care for. Because the current system won’t pay for more.
“A report out last week demonstrated how, at the same time, many big care providers have developed highly complex corporate structures involving offshore tax havens. Sucking even more money out of the system.”
He will add: “The next Labour government will introduce personal care free at the point of use in England.
“Funded not through the Conservatives’ gimmicky insurance schemes. But, like the NHS and our other essentials, through general taxation.”
Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Social Care and Mental Health Minister, said: “Nine years of cuts to local council budgets have pushed care services to the brink.
“For years, the Tories have failed to bring in much-needed reform, leaving too many people and their families struggling to afford the care they need.
“Tackling the crisis in social care is a priority for Labour. Our plans for social care will address the immediate crisis in care, double the number of people receiving publicly-funded care, and stop people with dementia being treated unfairly by the care system.
“It is vital that social care is a universally-available public service which provides dignity, security and compassionate care. Our National Care Service will have these principles at its core.”
Commenting on the announcement, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government has ignored social care for almost a decade, a neglect made worse by Brexit’s dominance of the political agenda.
“Labour’s focus on a sector needing urgent attention and its pledge to invest significantly will come as a huge relief to the elderly living in fear of selling their own homes or languishing in hospital, unable to return home in the absence of vital care support.
“Care workers too will feel at long last there’s a government on their side, as councils would again be able to deliver high quality services to residents, without relying on private firms more concerned about with profit than care standards.”