We must do better, but how?

With the new Government’s first Budget just days away, and with the Prime Minister promising to ‘fix social care once and for all’, this short publication sets out the main issues that we believe need to be addressed to ensure that people can live the lives they want to lead, and the kind of action we want to see from Government. And of course, thinking about the future of social care means thinking way beyond social care. It is essential in its own right but it also needs to be considered in terms of the role it plays – on its own and with other local services – in strengthening the places in which we live, our local economies and the capacity of other vital local services. In this way, we are seeking to move away from thinking about ‘social care’ in transactional terms and towards a foundation built on human relationships and connections. To support that shift, we need to incorporate the role of councils’ universal services, housing, public health, health, the voluntary and independent sectors, and – most crucially – the voice of people with lived experience of care and support, into our plans.

Some of this material is a restatement of what we said in our 2018 green paper, all of which remains relevant today and reflects the continuing importance and urgency of finding a long-term solution.

There can be no doubt that social care is now a firm public priority. In an Ipsos Mori survey in November last year looking at the issues most likely to help voters decide which way they would vote in the recent General Election, ‘care for older and disabled people’ came third behind the NHS and Brexit.1 This was higher than issues such as the economy, education, housing and the environment. The findings of that survey played out on the election campaign trail. Social care featured strongly in debates, campaign messaging and media coverage, as well as in party manifestos. But we have been here before and experience shows that the national spotlight that falls on social care in the heat of an election campaign can often fade once governments take office. The result is a continuation of piecemeal interventions that soften the edges of the social care challenge, rather than action to tackle the challenge head on.

This is a debate that therefore requires the engagement of politicians of all political colours. It is about the national interest, the local interest and the individual interest. Cooperation and consensus across the political divide must be built and councils stand ready to play their part in making this happen.