General election: What are the different parties plans for health and social care?

Detailed overview of commitments for health and social care by the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Green Party, Labour and Reform UK.
Merina Martin
19th June 2024

Far be it from me to claim expertise in political manifestos or the broader political arena. However, I am committed to being well-informed when it comes to making decisions at the polls. Each vote holds significance, considering the historical struggles endured for the right to vote.

I am also acutely aware of the overwhelming amount of information circulating from various channels regarding the upcoming July 4th General Election. This information highlights both the positive and negative aspects of the event. However, I often ponder on the driving forces and factors that shape potential policy choices concerning health and social care.

Which party truly prioritises social care?

Last week with much anticipated publicity and hype, manifesto week arrived in the general election campaign, with the Liberal Democrats firstly unveiling their pledges, followed by the Conservatives, the Green Party, Labour, and not forgetting Reform UK.

On reflection I do have to ask; Is adult social care a key focus across all political parties in the current landscape? It’s not for me to influence readers although I do see that The Liberal Democrats place a high priority on health and social care in their campaign, whereas the Conservatives, Green Party, Labour, and UK Reform exhibit reluctance or, in my humble opinion, a lack of interest. At the end of the day the proof of the pudding is in the eating!

Let’s take a look at my interpretation of the main points regarding health and social care in the manifestos!

Liberal Democrat Manifesto

In their manifesto the Liberal Democrats are commendably prioritising social care by placing it at the forefront of their campaign. With a substantial backing of £8bn, their key commitments for health and social care raise the question: What are their objectives?

  • To introduce a new program for personal care inspired by the initiative introduced by the Liberal Democrats during their governance in Scotland in 2002. This program aims to prioritise access to care based on need rather than financial means. It is important to highlight that initially, the free personal care program may focus on older adults before potentially expanding to include working-age adults. Clarification on this point is necessary
  • To create a detailed social care workforce plan that involves setting up a Royal College of Care Workers to improve acknowledgment and career progression. Moreover, introduce a higher Carer’s Minimum Wage that is £2 more than the national minimum wage
  • Establishing a cross-party commission is important to develop a long-term agreement on sustainable funding for social care
  • To provide unpaid carers with equitable treatment by ensuring they receive necessary support, such as paid carer’s leave and a legal assurance of consistent respite breaks
  • Essential is developing a digital strategy to empower care users to lead lives that are enriched and facilitated by technology

Conservative Manifesto

The Conservative party’s manifesto briefly addresses social care, with a limited 13 lines dedicated to the topic and no mention of additional funding. Health care is more of a focus. Their objectives are to:

  • Give local authorities a multi-year funding settlement
  • Cap lifetime care costs at £86,000
  • Continue the implementation of the reforms outlined in the “People at the Heart of Care” white paper
  • Continue with workforce reforms
  • Reform the housing market to better cater to the needs of older individuals
  • Support unpaid carers
  • Implementing a cap on social care costs is scheduled to take effect from October 2025. This initiative is expected to encompass the extended means test
  • Investing £3.4bn in NHS technology

Green Manifesto

The Green Party manifesto has committed to allocating the highest amount of funding (£20bn per year) to adult social care, although they have offered limited specifics. Their primary pledges for social care comprise:

  • Free personal care will be provided to ensure dignity for elderly and disabled individuals
  • Increase pay rates and establish a career structure for carers to strengthen the care workforce. Additionally, the manifesto mentions the intention to implement a minimum wage of £15 per hour for all, although it is uncertain if the rate for carers would exceed this amount
  • Change the visa system to ‘end the exploitation of overseas workers in the care sector. This would make it illegal for agents to charge commission and would ensure that carers are free to change employer in the UK’. The Green Party proposes enabling international care workers to bring their dependents and granting free access to the NHS for all migrants
  • Campaign for Gloria’s Law – giving everybody the right to at least one essential Care Supporter when they are using health and care services
  • Raise Carer’s Allowance by 10% for unpaid carers
  • Uplift disability benefits by 5%

Labour Manifesto

Labour’s manifesto has committed to social care reform, but the detail and timescales remain vague and there is a lack urgency. It is framed as part of Labour’s wider ‘mission’ to ‘Build an NHS Fit for the Future’. Labour has not only outlined their proposals in the manifesto but has also communicated to the media that they intend to implement the current plans for a cap on care costs by October 2025. However, the specifics regarding funding remain uncertain as Labour has not earmarked any funds in their manifesto for their social care commitments.

Labour is pledging to:

  • Cap lifetime care costs at £86,000
  • Undertaking a program of reform to establish a National Care Service that is supported by national standards for ensuring consistency nationwide. This service would prioritise local delivery, following the ‘home first‘ principle to empower individuals to maintain independent living for as long as feasible
  • Develop local partnership working between the NHS and social care to enhance hospital discharge processes
  • Minimum wage of £11.44
  • Establishing a Fair Pay Agreement involving collective bargaining to determine equitable pay, terms, and conditions in conjunction with training standards. It would be essential to engage in consultation before commencing the process
  • Guarantee the rights of those in residential care to see families
  • Task regulators with evaluating the role that social care workers can fulfil in basic health treatment and monitoring
  • Build consensus for longer-term reform
  • Explore the most effective strategies for managing and supporting an ageing population, ensuring secure integration with the NHS. Additionally, consider optimal methods for supporting working-age disabled adults and transitioning towards a more proactive healthcare system
  • Potential of digitally led NHS reform – tech entrepreneurs and AI

Reform UK Contract

Reform UK’s contract has minimal influence over adult social care within their ‘contract’, as it is combined with pensions. They propose to:

  • Initiate a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the social care system. The commission will delve into topics such as tax incentives, VAT breaks, and areas where cost reduction is feasible. It will also investigate the streamlining of social care by consolidating funding into a single stream, eliminating the current division between the NHS and local authorities
  • Stop the offshore taxpayer rip off – they claim that larger care home providers are avoiding tax on hundreds of millions of profits through complex offshore property company structures and high interest shareholder loans
  • Raising the income tax threshold to £20k could potentially result in savings of £1,500 annually for the lowest earners. This adjustment is estimated to lift 7 million of the least affluent individuals out of the Income Tax bracket
  • When it comes to immigration, there is a proposal to increase the National Insurance rate to 20% specifically for foreign workers. However, exemptions would be granted to international health and care workers

Without a doubt, we will all engage with health and social care, either directly or indirectly, at some point in our lives. This underscores the crucial importance of prioritising health and social care in policy-making. The growing elderly population and the challenges faced by the health and social care sector emphasise the pressing need for reforms to motivate citizens to take part in the electoral process on July 4, 2024.



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