Sajid Javid defends tax rises as Labour sets out alternative for social care

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said it would have been wrong to “doggedly” stick to manifesto commitments over tax rises in the face of a crisis in health and social care as Labour warned Tory plans could force care providers to go bust.

And Labour set out more detail on Sunday for their alternative proposals to reform the social care system.

The shadow health secretary told broadcasters on Sunday the party would implement a “reform programme” for social care, making a “national framework” to expand eligibility so that more people access care in their home, which the party said could generate £2.5 billion in savings.

Jonathan Ashworth also said Labour would invest more in staff salaries and training, give carers “proper” respite support, and improve conditions for those with disabilities.

Speaking on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, he said: “If you expand eligibility with a national framework… which is what we want to see, more people will access care in their home, and will not need to go into a care home or be delayed in hospital in a bed not able to get care out in the community.”

He said the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) has suggested such a move would save £2.5 billion, which Mr Ashworth said Labour would “reallocate to the frontline of social care”.

He said the way to raise standards is “investing in staff”.

“We will pay the staff a real living wage” he said, and “get rid of these zero hours contracts that a quarter of the staff are on and we will invest in their training”.

He also criticised the care cost cap, saying: “The cap, yes, it limits the liabilities that some people will pay out, but only benefits one in seven people.

“What about the other six in seven who see no benefit?”

Mr Ashworth said the planned health and social care levy “won’t deliver the healthcare that is needed”, and when asked on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show if Labour would scrap it, he described it as “a punishing unfair tax rise on working people”.

Asked again if he would scrap the levy, Mr Ashworth said: “It’s not actually come in yet.

“There’s a vote on Tuesday.

“And there’s still an opportunity for Tory MPs to vote it down.”

Mr Ashworth also warned the Government’s plans could lead to social care providers going bust.

He told Sky News: “Because of the way the financing works, council tax will go up or care homes will go bust.

“And there will still be thousands upon thousands of people in this country who don’t get access to the social care they need.”

Labour said on Sunday that a Government proposal for those who self-fund their care to be able to pay at the same rate as local authorities could “push the entire care sector off a cliff”.

Labour said there said the measure could wipe thousands of pounds from a care home’s income because the income from people who fund their own care currently subsidises those whose care is paid for by their local authority, a situation the party blames on Government cuts.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Yui Mok/PA)
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth (Yui Mok/PA)

Defending tax rises to pay for health and social care, the Health Secretary said it would not have been right to “doggedly” stick to Conservative manifesto promises in the light of the “unprecedented strain” on the health service caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on Trevor Phillips On Sunday on Sky News, Mr Javid said it is “not at all” the case that the Government was shifting the responsibility of social care on to councils, and said the changes would make the system “stronger”.

Asked whether the Government was dumping the costs on councils, Mr Javid said: “Not at all.

“I mean, already today, spending on adult social care (is) in normal times around £20 billion a year, that’s a combination of funding from central government and locally raised funds.

“What we’ve announced this week is a top-up on that to provide as I say more workplace training, this new system of a cap, and better means testing.”

He added: “It will remain a combination of funds and each year will be determined based on need, but the changes that we’ve announced will make it a stronger system and local authorities will continue to play a hugely important role in that.”

Defending tax rises, Mr Javid said: “I wasn’t prepared to see as the Health Secretary where, for example with the NHS, with the growth that we’ve seen in the waiting list, I wasn’t prepared to see that waiting to be any higher than it needs to be.

“I want that waiting list to be tackled, and the way to do that is to make sure that the resources are there and we’re also making sure of the right reforms.”