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Streeting promises social care costs cap despite absence from Labour manifesto

Shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Introducing a cap on adult social care costs by October next year is part of Labour’s plan if they win the election, Wes Streeting has insisted.

The pledge did not appear in the party’s manifesto when it was published on Thursday.

Adult social care charging reforms – including an £86,000 cap on the amount anyone in England has to spend on their personal care over their lifetime – had been due to be implemented by the Conservative Government from October 2023 but were delayed by two years.

Shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting was asked whether he could make a firm commitment to bringing in the cap in October 2025.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “That’s the plan, as things stand.”

When put to him that did not sound like a firm commitment, he responded: “We don’t have any plans to change that situation and that’s the certainty and stability I want to give the system at this stage.”

Labour’s manifesto did pledge to create a previously-suggested national care service, with locally delivered services based on the principle that people must be supported to live independently for as long as possible.

It also promised a fair pay agreement, setting fair pay, terms and conditions.

The party said it will “consult widely” on the design of the agreement “before beginning the process and learn from countries where they operate successfully”.

Reports ahead of the manifesto launch suggested the ambition would be for care workers to be paid at least the real living wage, £12 across the UK or £13.15 in London, but no specific figures were mentioned in the manifesto.

Questioned on the national care service plan, Mr Streeting said it will take a decade to put in place and that he wants it to last “the best part of the next century”.

He told Today: “It’s going to take 10 years to build the kind of national care service that I think will last this country the best part of the next century.

“And that’s the scale of ambition that I have, that a Labour government would have. Change takes time, especially when the public finances are in the state they are and the catastrophic damage the Conservatives have done.

“It’s been put to me repeatedly and to other Labour colleagues in recent days about the importance of honesty. And as we have said repeatedly, you know, our manifesto is a manifesto that’s fully costed and fully funded.”

The party’s manifesto pledges faced criticism from those within the sector for a lack of detail.

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, during a visit to Whale Hill Primary School in Eston, Middlesbrough
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Nuffield Trust health think tank said while a commitment to a new national set of standards and a focus on reaching a fair pay agreement for the social care workforce is welcome “this is overshadowed by the lack of a costed plan for social care” as well as a “seeming lack of recognition of the need for urgent action”.

It added: “The ambition of a national care service has little detail, isn’t well defined and there is no mention of a credible long-term funding model for social care.

“Unpaid carers – who deliver high-quality compassionate care for their friends and families every day – are notable by their absence.”

Age UK said there appear to be “no new commitments” for adult social care and that incoming ministers, should Labour win, will be under “huge pressure to act fast to put flesh on the bones of the ‘plan for a plan’ so far outlined”.

Echoing this, the King’s Fund health charity said the manifesto “largely dodges the issue of social care reform” and that the promises “could best be described as a plan to come up with a plan”.

Labour has also pledged to “develop local partnership working between the NHS and social care on hospital discharge”.

Mr Streeting said they want to “get people who are fit for discharge out of hospital, back home or back into the community which would be better for them but also better for the taxpayer”.

He said Labour is “determined to make the right long-term choices, not the short-term sticking plasters of the Conservatives”.

The Tory manifesto promised to implement the cap on social care costs from October next year and to give local authorities “a multi-year funding settlement to support social care” were it to be in government at the next Spending Review.

It added: “We will attract and retain a high-quality care workforce, make reforms to shape the market for older people’s housing and support unpaid carers.”