Queen's Speech 2021: Measures to address social care funding left out of government's agenda

  • Video report by ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston

The long-standing issue of social care funding has not been included in the government's agenda for the coming year, despite a manifesto pledge to fix the problem.

Campaigners attacked the lack of a detailed plan for social care in the Queen's Speech as a "missed opportunity", and questioned why issues such as voter ID appeared to take priority.

The government says it is committed to fixing social care issues, but would not reveal which proposals are being considered until later this year.

Delivering Boris Johnson's legislative agenda for the new parliamentary session, the Queen told the House of Lords that proposals on social care will be "brought forward", but no more detail was provided.

It was what Boris Johnson didn't tell us that 'upset and surprised' a lot of people, says Peston

Introducing the speech, the prime minister said: "Later in the year we will bring forward proposals to reform adult social care so that every person receives the dignity and security they deserve."

His spokesman insisted the government is "committed" to a long-term plan to "fix the care crisis".

In his first speech as PM in 2019, Mr Johnson told the public he had a "clear plan" that will "fix the crisis in social care once and for all" - leading campaigners to question why details had still not been revealed.

Asked whether Mr Johnson had misled the country in his speech two years ago, the spokesman said: "No, as I said, we will be setting out our proposals later this year."

Watch the Queen's Speech in full:

The lack of a plan to address social care issues will come as a kick in the teeth for many working in the sector after months of working on the front line in the battle against coronavirus.

There are numerous problems with the UK's social care system, campaigners say, with many working in the sector paid minimum wage and the costs for those requiring care often much too high.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of the provider membership organisation, Care England, said: "This is a missed opportunity.

"Without the much-needed, not to mention heralded, reform it is questionable as to how much longer the sector can be expected to limp on.

"A sector that supports and employs vast swathes of the population cannot be ignored."

Angela Kitching from Age UK told ITV News the announcement comes off the back of "years and years of dither and delay".

'The government has moved from if they're going to reform it to when they're going to reform it'

"Today, at least, we can see that the government has moved from if they're going to reform it to when they're going to reform it and what that might include.

"A lot of people need proper support from the social care system that is reformed and the workforce in social care needs to see increasing professionalisation and proper reward for the year they've just had."

On the cause of delays so far, Ms Kitching suggested it was an issue of finance. She added, however, that the government looks prepared to "get things done".

"We hope everybody is going to work together to achieve that, and that it is going to be worth waiting for: That the reform goes beyond just putting a cap on the total cost of social care, and moves towards ensuring that everybody actually gets some quality in the social care that's delivered, and enough people get access."

The National Care Forum, which represents not-for-profit providers, said the government must engage "fully and swiftly" with reform.

Chairman of the Independent Care Group Mike Padgham said older and vulnerable people have been "betrayed" and reform has been "pushed down the road".

A briefing note from Number 10, accompanying the speech, said the government will engage with staff about how best to support the 1.5 million-strong workforce and ensure that reform is "informed by diverse perspectives".

It noted that care costs are unpredictable, can be very high, and that "not all the risk is shared across society".

Health groups said measures to help the NHS recover following the pandemic will only succeed if social care is given equal attention.

Acting general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Pat Cullen said ignoring social care is the same as ignoring the NHS, and that both are "desperately in need of investment".

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea added: "Social care failings have a knock-on effect on the NHS too. A world-class system is needed, and a government with the ambition and drive to deliver."

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