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‘Cloud of anxiety’ worrying families shows need for social care cap, MPs hear

Ministers have been urged to give assurances over the future of the delayed cap on social care costs, amid a “cloud of anxiety” worrying families.

Conservative MP Tom Hunt said he continues to be contacted by people who face “losing everything” as he pressed the Government to consider whether the policy is still possible.

In November 2022, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the implementation of the adult social care charging reforms would be delayed for two years to 2025.

Conservative MP Tom Hunt
Conservative MP Tom Hunt (PA)

This included an £86,000 cap on personal care cost contributions, as well as an expanded means test that is more generous than the existing one, which had been due to come into effect from October 2023.

Speaking at health questions, Ipswich MP Mr Hunt said: “I know the idea of a social care cost cap has dropped off the agenda slightly, I know it’s incredibly expensive, but I continue to be contacted by constituents who face losing everything.

“At a time when often their loved ones have got dementia, it’s already emotionally an incredibly traumatic time to have this added anxiety about how they’re going to pay for the care, the only thing that should matter is what works and what is best for their loved one.”

Mr Hunt said there is a “cloud of anxiety that hangs over society which we all worry about”, adding: “Could the minister confirm that this has not lost her attention and that we will continue to consider whether we can do it?”

Health minister Helen Whately replied: “It’s a very important point he makes about the concerns that people feel about the cost of care.”

She added: “The charging reforms were delayed – after we listened to local authorities – by the Chancellor in 2022.”

Conservative MP Peter Aldous (Waveney) earlier warned social care is “under enormous pressure” in Suffolk, adding: “It is a significant challenge to recruit carers, to pay them fairly and then to provide them with a proper career path.

“Therefore I hear what (Ms Whately) said but will she consider commissioning a long-term workforce plan for adult social care, equivalent to that of the NHS?”

Ms Whately replied: “I can assure him we already have a plan for the care workforce set out in the People at the Heart of Care white paper and now we’re putting that plan into practice.

“Our care workforce pathway is already being implemented, our new accredited qualification for care workers will be launched later this year and we’re backing social care with up to £8.6 billion in extra funding available.”

Health minister Helen Whately
Health minister Helen Whately (PA)

Ms Whately would also not be drawn into saying whether plans to restrict foreign social workers from bringing their families to the UK will affect recruitment into care jobs.

Labour MP Sarah Owen (Luton North) said: “The Government’s own statistics show there are at least 152,000 vacancies in England alone in social care, leaving my constituents waiting up to 10 weeks to be discharged from hospital.

“The Government have been using international recruitment to plug the gaps. As a result they have filled over 11,000 vacancies over the last year, so can the minister confirm if the recruitment and retention in social care will be better or worse due to the Government plans to prevent overseas social workers bringing family members to the UK?”

Ms Whately said: “Vacancies have fallen and the care workforce grew by over 20,000 last year. We are seeing better retention as well as care workers, but we need to go further.

“That is why we are reforming social care careers, introducing the first ever national career structure for the care workforce and new qualifications and training.”

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne meanwhile urged ministers to “copy our homework once again” and adopt Labour’s plans for a national care service “with clear standards for providers and a new deal for staff”.

Ms Whately responded: “Let’s be honest, Labour has no plan for social care.

“Whatever he says, it is unfunded, there is no funding committed to it, it is not meaningful. On this side of the House we are reforming adult social care, we not only have a plan, but it is in progress.”