It has long been mooted by the labour party that it would introduce free social care if the party won power. But according to John Pring of the Disability News Service, the party seems to have stepped back from the policy as it is seen as too expensive.
Change in strategy
Thangam Debbonaire told female party members at a meeting last weekend that introducing free social care for disabled and older people would “give the Tories a stick to beat Labour with”, Disability News Service (DNS) has been told.
She apparently claimed that such a policy would cost “£100 billion” and would cost more than the annual budget of the NHS.
She also said that right-wing newspapers would attack the policy and that it would lose Labour the next election.
This week, Labour failed to deny she had made the comments that represent a change in Labour Party policy and strategy.
Debbonaire Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, was speaking at a “composite meeting”, which was discussing how to combine various motions that had been proposed by constituency Labour parties (CLPs) into a single motion to be debated and voted on at this weekend’s Labour women’s conference.
Several CLPs had passed motions calling for free social care, and a draft composite motion included two references to free social care, including a call for Labour to promise “to make the provision of all social care free to the recipient as is the case for health care under the NHS” and for social care to be “needs-based and publicly funded, free at the point of use”.
But the final version of the motion, prepared just before the meeting, expunged all mentions of free social care.
One disabled party member who attended the virtual meeting told Disability News Service (DNS) afterwards that Labour had betrayed and silenced its disabled members.
Disabled led proposals ignored
Only last month, DNS reported how Labour had refused to explain why a major speech by its shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, had ignored disabled-led proposals for fundamental reform – including free social care – that were backed by Keir Starmer during his leadership election campaign.
Starmer supported the National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS) proposals during his successful campaign to be elected party leader last year, telling DNS in February 2020 that he backed a motion supporting those proposals which had been passed at Labour’s annual conference. NILSS, which was drawn up by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), would provide a universal right to independent living that was “enshrined in law”, and would introduce free social care in England, funded by national and progressive taxation.
But yesterday (Wednesday), a Labour spokesperson refused to say why the party had gone back on Starmer’s support for the NILSS motion; refused to say why the references to free social care were removed from the social care composite motion document.
But the spokesperson said in a statement: “The final motion was democratically agreed by all CLPs who attended the meeting and will be debated and voted on by National Women’s Conference.”
Concerns of disability organisations
Organisations led by disabled people believe they are being excluded from current discussions being held by the Department of Health and Social Care into reform of social care. They feel that they have not been listened to in their quest for free social care.
It seems that Labour no longer sees free social care as a viable proposition because it would be too expensive. Given the decades it has taken for the political parties to agree how the cost of social care will be met, it is hard to see how any government will provide free social care.
All social care must be paid for by the taxpayer and begs the question will the public pay for free social care when it will be asked to fund much needed reform based on the Dilnot Report. However, organisations representing the disabled are right in pushing for free social care.
While free social care may be desirable, in reality it is no more than a pipedream floated by the Labour party and then withdrawn, like many policy documents produced by all political parties.
Albert Cook Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy