The Government’s long-promised plan to fix social care has been slammed by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), for not addressing low pay and critical staff shortages in the sector. The plan seeks to cap the maximum people can pay in care costs over their lifetime to £86,000, financed by a controversial hike in national insurance contributions (NICs). But critics have pointed out that most of the revenue raised has been earmarked for the NHS in the next three years to cover a post-COVID treatment backlog, and the proposals do little to address structural problems, such as short-staffing.
‘The nursing shortage in social care is even greater than the NHS and this long-term funding change will take too long to address that,’ said RCN Deputy General Secretary and Chief Executive, Susan Aitkenhead. ‘Ministers continue to bury their heads in the sand despite repeated workforce warnings – individuals who need it most are let down by a short-staffed care system.’
The Prime Minister’s manifesto-breaking decision to raise NICs has also proved controversial, for shifting the burden from older people with housing wealth to younger, poorly paid workers including those working in social care.
‘If the Government pushes ahead with the increase in National Insurance, social care staff on low wages will be amongst the hardest hit. Already faced with rising inflation, this will be yet another blow,’ said Ms Aitkenhead. ‘No matter whether social care or NHS, nursing staff deserve fair pay. Our members do not believe the Prime Minister's recent pay pledges amount to “good wages” Social care must become a more attractive place to work, with salaries for care and nursing staff that at the very least match the NHS.’
The proposals also led to angry clashes in the House of Commons, with Opposition Leader Keir Starmer, describing them as ‘a sticking plaster over gaping wounds’.