Peter Aldous urges the Government to consider Lords amendments to Health and Care Bill on the cap on care costs and on workforce planning.
I am grateful to have a few minutes to say a few words on the cap on care costs and on workforce planning.
With regard to the care cap, it is important to congratulate the Government on tackling a problem—or attempting to defuse a ticking time bomb—that all their predecessors shied away from. However, there is concern that the proposals are a rushed tag-on to a Bill that was designed for a different purpose: the integration of health and social care and the setting up of integrated care systems. I accept that there is a clear correlation, but the legislation that addresses the problem of people being forced to sell their homes to pay for their care should have been considered and scrutinised separately and carefully, with the objective of putting in place a system that has political consensus and will stand the test of time. That is what the Dilnot proposals and the Care Act 2014 achieved, and they should be the foundation stone on which we build this new system.
My concerns are twofold. First, clause 140 is extremely unfair to those with limited assets and modest incomes. The changes may save the Government hundreds of millions of pounds, but they do so at the expense of those on low incomes and those who live in parts of the country where house values are lower, such as Lowestoft in my constituency. Secondly, there is a worry that working-age adults with disabilities will be unfairly penalised, hence the introduction by the other place of a provision to address it. I acknowledge the Government’s worries about the cost implication of that additional provision, but that iniquity needs to be addressed.
On workforce planning, there is a staffing crisis both in the NHS, where there are 110,000 full-time equivalent vacancies, and in social care, where there are another 100,000 vacancies, high staff turnover and very limited respite for unpaid and family carers. Those deficiencies cascade through the health and care system, creating bed-blocking in hospitals and impeding the efforts made to reduce waiting lists. There is an urgent need for strategic planning to address this crisis. There is concern that framework 15 is not working because of inadequacies in the collection of data, lack of assessment of workforce numbers, and unresponsiveness to societal shifts.
Since we last considered the issue last month, the other place has sought to address the Government’s concerns and, as we have heard, has made reasonable concessions. There is a crisis that must be addressed, and I hope that at this very late stage the Government will accept this reasonable amendment, so that we can get on with this much-needed work.