They promised to “Fix Social Care” – Instead they’ve Failed it

Posted on: 21st January 2022


At the last election the Conservatives promised that above all they would “fix social care”. This week’s news confirms they’ve achieved the opposite. If they want to slash care provided to the sickest and vulnerable they should go and explain that to the patients and their families themselves, and not expect the heroes working on the frontline of our overstretched care services to do it for them. 

They have already made a difficult social care situation far worse than it need be. Now it’s at risk of spiraling out of control. It’s no wonder they left the announcement of the ‘Critical Incident’ in social care till just after the Full Council meeting this week. Otherwise they would have faced immediate and serious questions about their appalling handling of the health and care services and the counterproductivity of their proposals for dealing with it. 

As a new member of the Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee I’ve become used to the Conservatives treating it with discourtesy. Once again we found out about this after the media had been informed. 

Their explanation was that this was “a slow build-up of pressure” so they could have raised this within the Council before. They say they want to discharge 180 hospital patients and to “keep people away from hospital”. They say they’ll do this by slashing in half the care currently provided for those who need it most. But this runs the risk of achieving the opposite; driving many more patients towards our already struggling hospitals, quite apart from adding to the human tragedy of leaving hundreds of people who need help in avoidable distress. 

The Conservatives created this problem. They closed community hospitals, underfunded social care, refused to support care workers with inadequate pay and conditions, refused to support mandatory safe staffing, ignored those who urged them to take workforce planning seriously, pumped taxpayers’ money into second homes rather than keyworker housing and ignored all warnings of the serious detriment of staff exodus following Brexit. 

The local Conservatives keep telling us that because they have total control here – ie run the Country, hold all MP seats and run the Council – they will make sure Cornwall gets the very best deal. Well, now’s a perfect opportunity for them to prove it. 

The situation won’t get any easier. The Government’s announcement on the lifting of Covid restrictions (made in another desperate attempt to distract attention from the PM’s difficulties) comes before the latest wave is properly under control. And it contradicts the sensible advice from Cornwall’s Public Health Team. 

The Conservatives now say they want to fill the gap with 1) more volunteering – Cornwall already has outstanding voluntary organisations, volunteer rates and neighbourliness – 2) self-denying stoicism – but the current problem is the inadequacy of care support. Not that those who need it are overwhelmed with more help than they need – 3) slashing the number of care packages provided for those most in need – the Portfolio holder says he’s asked Council staff to see if those who “have a package of care four times a day can have it two times a day instead”.  

The first two proposals are feeble as a serious response to a ‘Critical Incident’ (though they should of course always be an integral part of wider longer-term strategy to consistently grow the capacity of neighbourliness, communities and the voluntary sector). But the threat to slash care packages available to those who most need them is both menacing and will have the opposite effect, making the ‘critical incident’ all the more critical. It also demonstrates naivety. How many of those who need packages of care four times a day – many of whom will have complex needs, be bed-bound and have continence issues – can really have their care support cut? 

Those heartless or misguided Conservatives who say they want to slash care packages should be prepared to explain this to the patients and their families themselves.