Westminster Hall Debate - Care Homes in England

I spoke about care homes and support for carers in Enfield during a Westminster Hall Debate on Care Homes in England. 

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). I echo what he said about some of the excellent care that we see in care homes.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle)on securing an important and timely debate. He highlighted many of the key concerns of care providers in the UK. One is the current funding crisis in social care. Over the past five years we have seen social care budgets across the country cut by almost 11%. In Enfield, the local authority has had to deliver net savings in its adult social care budget of 16% over the past four years, and by 2019, the savings requirement that the council will need to initiate will further reduce the budget by £19.8 million, from £80.8 million this year to £61 million. That is equivalent to another 25% reduction in the net budget. How do the Government seriously expect local authorities such as Enfield to cope with a cut of that level?

Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con): I have been a councillor, so I know that budgets have been quite tight in local authorities over the years. A care home in my constituency, Siegen Manor, is possibly due to close. Does the right hon. Lady agree that we need to look at the way councils spend money? In my new city council, there is a lot of wastage. We need to look at how councils spend their money, because I could give a lot of examples of how they could—

Mrs Anne Main (in the Chair): Order. I call Joan Ryan.

Joan Ryan: It is always important that we have a weather eye on how any public authority is spending its money and that we get the best value for money; that goes without saying. However, I think— I do not believe the hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Andrea Jenkyns) was disagreeing with me on this—that we need to hear from the Government how local authorities can be expected to cope with the size of cut that has been happening and is continuing to come their way. I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention.

Spending reductions of the size that my local authority is facing will almost inevitably result in cuts to the services that Enfield delivers to some of the most vulnerable people in the borough. Given the huge pressures on shrinking resources, I commend Enfield Council for its nationally recognised standards of best practice and the gold accreditation that it has received for its safeguarding work. Enfield has a wide range of care homes, which provide support to older and disabled people not only from the local area but from other areas. However, the deep cuts from central Government have already seen care homes close, and a significant increase in the number of people placed in the borough by other councils has meant that nursing home provision, particularly for people with dementia, is under severe strain. As a result, an ever increasing burden has been placed on our local NHS services and family carers. In those circumstances, it can be no great surprise that there is difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff to work as care providers.

Front-line care workers are all too often grossly undervalued. They offer vital support to people with ever more complex conditions, yet in return they often receive very poor wages. So although I welcome the introduction of the national living wage of £7.20 from April 2016, that figure is nowhere near the current London living wage of £9.40. Many care workers working in Enfield and elsewhere in London need that hourly rate just to get by. However, the Government have yet to explain how the care sector will be able to cope with the increased pressures on payrolls when funding has been so drastically cut. It is estimated that the introduction of the national living wage will add at least 5% to payrolls from 2016-17 and a further 7% every year until 2020. That will drive even more front-line care providers out of business and make a bad situation even worse.

I am writing to you on behalf of Enfield Carers Centre to ask if you will support us in an urgent call that we are issuing to the Chancellor George Osborne in advance of the 2015 Spending Review.

In the Summer Budget, the Chancellor announced that, as of 2016, there will be a new compulsory National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour. We welcome support for care workers who deserve decent pay. However since we are dependent on local authorities paying us enough to pass this on to our valued care workers this increase therefore has to be reflected in the hourly rate paid by local authorities for care and support.

A report by the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) has found that councils are going to need an additional £753 million to ensure their local care providers can meet these new pay requirements. Without that funding, care services risk closing down entirely…Care services have been badly affected over recent years by cuts and this is a financial stretch which we cannot meet. Quite simply the home care market, is at risk of collapse.”

I do not think that the Enfield Carers Centre got the answer it was looking for from the Chancellor, and I hope that it will hear some better news today from the Minister. I agree with the National Care Association when it states:

“UK Care Services are an irreplaceable part of the fabric of the NHS. There should be no doubt that what is under threat is a UK support service which is essential to local government and NHS care provision.”

I would like to know how the Minister will address those concerns and what steps the Government intend to put in place to provide a transparent and sustainable funding settlement for social care. The older and disabled people who rely on the service, their families and the all too often unsung heroes who work in it deserve no less.


A link to the full debate can be found here. 

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