NEC Birmingham |  09 - 10 October 2024

Retirement Living Show Logo
25 Jun 2024

Manifesto mentions: where does social care appear in each of the main political party promises?

Manifesto mentions: where does social care appear in each of the main political party promises?
With the general election rapidly approaching, the NHS is set to dominate campaign discussions, but social care also demands immediate attention.

Reforming the support system for older and disabled individuals and their carers is crucial, yet historically, social care often receives scant attention during elections due to a significant lack of public awareness about its delivery and funding. This ignorance allows political opponents to weaponise specific proposals as seen in past elections such as the Conservatives' "death tax" accusation against Labour in 2010. Similarly, the 2017 Conservative manifesto's social care proposals also faced backlash due to public misconceptions. Such contentious debates over social care have thus been seen to derail meaningful reform efforts, increasing the difficulty in addressing social care in campaigns. 

Furthermore, effective solutions require long-term, cross-party collaboration, which is impeded by the combative atmosphere of electioneering.  

Promises of social care reform, like those from Boris Johnson in 2019, often get sidelined due to political divisions and other priorities such as Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when plans emerge, as in 2021, they frequently face delays, reflecting the ongoing struggle to prioritise social care reform amid other pressing issues. 

Effective election campaigns should raise public awareness about the critical role of social care and present a realistic vision for its future, focusing on long-term improvements and innovative policy ideas beyond just increased funding. 

What follows is a summary of the commitments that the three largest parties in England have made to social care in their manifestos: 


Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat 


Social care reform 

The Conservative Party plans to implement reforms from October 2025 that will cap the social care costs an individual is responsible for. They aim to advance the reforms outlined in the "People at the Heart of Care" White Paper, which emphasises improving care quality and supporting individuals in need. 

Labour intends to undertake a comprehensive reform programme to establish a National Care Service. This initiative includes setting new national standards for adult social care to ensure uniform care quality across England, with a "home first" principle prioritising home-based care. Additionally, Labour plans to develop local partnerships between the NHS and the social care sector to streamline hospital discharge processes. They will also task regulators with enhancing the role of social care workers in basic health treatment and monitoring. 

The Liberal Democrats propose introducing free personal care, covering certain aspects of care costs through state funding. They plan to create a National Care Agency responsible for setting national minimum care standards. Furthermore, they aim to establish a cross-party commission to develop a long-term, sustainable funding agreement for social care. 


Social care funding 

At the next Spending Review, the Conservative Party plans to provide local authorities with a multi-year funding settlement specifically to support social care. This approach aims to ensure stability and long-term planning for social care services at the local level. 

The Labour Party also intends to provide local authorities with multi-year funding settlements. This initiative is designed to facilitate better financial planning and sustained investment in social care, ensuring consistent and high-quality services. 

The Liberal Democrats propose an additional annual expenditure of £3.7 billion on social care. This significant increase in funding is intended to enhance the overall quality and availability of social care services across the country. 


Workforce recruitment and training 

The Labour Party intend to establish a ‘fair pay agreement’ in social care outlining a collective agreement within the sector to set out terms and conditions for fair pay. They will also aim to ensure the publication of regular, independent workforce planning across social care.  

Liberal Democrats intend to address the issue of high spending on agency workers, with a plan to encourage the use of flexible staff banks. This approach aims to provide a more cost-effective and reliable workforce for social care services. Additionally, a comprehensive social care workforce plan will be introduced, prioritising the recruitment of more staff into the sector. This initiative seeks to alleviate staffing shortages and improve the quality of care provided. 

Furthermore, the creation of a new carer's minimum wage is proposed. This would initially increase the minimum wage for care workers by £2 an hour, serving as a starting point for broader improvements in pay across the sector. This measure is intended to attract and retain skilled workers, ensuring better compensation for those in care roles. 


Support for social care staff 

To foster professional growth and flexibility, the Liberal Democrats propose the establishment of a career ladder, enabling workers to seamlessly transition between roles in the NHS and social care sectors.  

Additionally, they also propose the creation of a royal college of care workers. This institution will serve as a representative body for the care workforce, advocating for their interests and professional development. 


International recruitment and migration 

To reduce long-term dependence on overseas workers in various sectors, including health and social care, Labour proposes introducing comprehensive workforce and training plans. These plans aim to develop domestic talent and ensure a steady supply of skilled workers. Additionally, Labour intends to reform the points-based immigration system to be "fair and properly managed." This reform will include appropriate restrictions on visas and better integration of immigration and skills policies to align with the needs of the economy. 

The Liberal Democrats propose exempting NHS and care staff from the Immigration Skills Charge. This measure aims to ease the financial burden on healthcare institutions and attract essential workers to support the healthcare system.  


Mental health, learning disabilities and autism 

The Conservative Party aims to significantly enhance mental health services. They plan to increase the capacity of Individual Placement and Support for Severe Mental Illness by 140,000 places. A new law will be passed in the first session of the next parliament to improve treatment and support for individuals with severe mental health needs. Additionally, there are plans to modernise autism and learning disability services. From September 2025, the Conservatives intend to tighten the benefits system's assessments of work capability, ensuring those with moderate mental health issues receive tailored support to engage with the workforce. 

Labour is committed to modernising the Mental Health Act to ensure that everyone receives treatment with dignity and respect. This reform aims to create a more humane and equitable mental health care system. 

The Liberal Democrats propose several measures to improve mental health and disability services. They plan to end inappropriate and costly inpatient placements for individuals with learning disabilities and autism, as well as eliminate out-of-area mental health placements. To better support young people, they will extend mental health services up to the age of 25. Additionally, they propose making prescriptions for people with long-term mental health conditions free on the NHS and widening the current safety investigation into mental health hospitals. 

Click here to read the full article: 


Reform UK 

Although in less detail, social care also appeared in the Reform UK manifesto. The party's proposal for adult social care in England includes establishing a royal commission within the first 100 days of a new government to create a national plan for a sustainable care system for older and disabled individuals. They suggest offering tax incentives and VAT breaks but acknowledge that funding must also come from additional sources to support the finalised plans.  

Currently, the care sector heavily depends on overseas staff. Reform UK supports essential immigration, particularly for healthcare, but does not specifically address social care. 


The Green Party 

The Green Party is proposing an additional £20bn to address the adult social care crisis as part of their "investing to mend" plan. This substantial funding raises questions about feasibility and affordability. The Greens suggest that up to £150bn could be generated annually through higher taxes on the wealthiest and a carbon tax. They believe that enhancing early support for older and disabled individuals at home or in care homes would alleviate NHS pressure. Like the Liberal Democrats, the Green party also advocates for free personal care, covering daily tasks such as washing, dressing, and medication, similar to Scotland’s system.  


*This article is a summary of where social care has been mentioned across the party manifestos and does not attempt to analyse, comment on, or fact check all of the pledges made* 


View all Edition 24

Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up for updates on the latest products, exhibitors and all the show news.