by Andy McNicoll and Luke Stevenson
A Labour government would avoid ‘extreme’ social care cuts planned by the Conservatives and continue to fund the controversial Frontline fast-track training scheme for children’s social work.
Reject ‘extreme’ cuts
The Labour health manifesto pledges to reject “Tory plans for extreme spending cuts” to social care. Labour says the Conservative plans would leave hundreds of thousands of people without access to services, increasing the pressure on the NHS.
“It won’t be possible to rescue and strengthen the NHS without tackling the crisis in social care,” the Labour report says. “And it is precisely because we recognise the value of social care that we reject the Conservatives’ plans for extreme spending cuts in the next Parliament.”
The party’s election manifesto commits to continuing support for the Frontline scheme “and its innovative approach to training social workers”. The fast-track programme, launched by the coalition government in 2013, aims to attract top graduates into children’s social work but has triggered concerns that a two-tier social work education system is being created.
Labour also pledged to increase support for children in kinship care and their families, a group it said is “too often overlooked and undervalued”.
The Family Rights Group welcomed that pledge, describing it is an important step towards providing kinship carers with greater rights, support and access to advice
The manifesto documents also reiterate several social care-related policies previously announced by Labour. These include plans to:
- Create a child protection unit to work across government and drive progress in the prevention of child abuse and sexual exploitation.
- Introduce mandatory reporting of child abuse.
- Invest an extra £2.5bn a year in NHS to pay for extra frontline staff, including 5,000 more care workers.
- Incentivise local areas to integrate health and social care services by “bringing together” budgets, commissioners and providers at local level.
- End time-limited 15 minute care visits.
- Ban the use of zero-hours contracts, a move Labour says “will improve the working life of care workers.”
- Ensure councils provide ‘ring-fenced’ money for carers breaks.
- Tackle abuse in the care system by consulting on a new offence of corporate neglect for directors of care homes.
Pledges need ‘meat on the bones’
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said Labour’s pledges need “unpacking”.
On the proposals to integrate health and social care, Mansuri said: “It might sound quite seductive, when actually it’s meaningless unless we have the meat on the bones”.
Mansuri claimed Labour is looking at the issue of mandatory reporting through the “wrong lens”.
“If you look at something like Rotherham we have people usually in the least powerful positions – social workers included – who have done their best to blow the whistle,” she said.
Mansuri called for politicians to abandon the “remedial model” of dealing with social work, and treating it like a mess that needs fixing. She said the discussion should be a lot more “proactive, positive, and supportive”.
The full Conservative and Green party manifestos will be published tomorrow.