For many years now, the social care sector in Britain has been in crisis. And COVID-19 has pushed the already-stretched system well past its breaking point.
Over 25% of care home deaths last year were attributed to coronavirus. Meanwhile, staff have left the sector in droves due to poor wages, long hours, and inadequate PPE.
This month, the Tory government announced plans to reform social care in Britain. These proposals were passed in a vote in the House of Commons yesterday, by 319 to 248.
The intended changes are to be paid for by an increase in taxes on working people, which are estimated to raise an additional £12 billion.
The tax hike will begin next April – initially as a 1.25% increase in National Insurance (NI) contributions. From 2023, this will become a separate income tax, ring-fenced for health and social care. These amount to the highest tax rises in Britain in over 40 years.
Social care reform was one of the promises that Boris Johnson made in the Tories’ 2019 election manifesto. But so was a pledge not to increase income taxes, VAT, or NI contributions.
This move has therefore provoked some disgruntled noises from various sections of the already-fractured Tory Party, along with its mouthpieces in the right-wing media.
These unfair Tory plans are not supported by the public and will not fix the crisis facing social care.— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 8, 2021
We must continue to make the case for a National Care Service - and the right to get care - for all.
Even the bosses of the big care home associations are not pleased with the government’s latest announcement.
“This is nowhere near enough,” stated Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of the UK Home Care Association. “It will not address current issues and some measures may create new risks.”
Similarly a spokesperson for the Independent Care Group asserted that it was a “huge opportunity missed for radical, once-in-a-generation reform of the social care system”.
This same care sector representative added that the Tories’ plans would not address the staffing crisis that was “sending the sector into meltdown on a daily basis as care providers struggle to cover shifts”.
Questions and concerns have also been raised about how much of the money generated by the new tax will actually be spent on social care, rather than on clearing the massive NHS backlog that has built up during the pandemic.
After all, Johnson himself is on record as saying that the “priority right now” is tackling waiting lists.
Furthermore, having made this care announcement to much fanfare, the Prime Minister is now rowing back and attempting to manage expectations.
In a briefing earlier this week, for example, the Tory leader said that he wants to “level with people”, stressing that the NHS and social care crisis will “get worse before it gets better”.
Behind all the smoke and mirrors, the truth is that these latest ‘reforms’ do nothing to tackle the root of the problem: the profiteering, exploitation, and chaos seen across the social care sector, due to private ownership.
Privatisation – in social care, and across public services – has been a total failure, costing the taxpayer more than ever before, and syphoning millions into the hands of parasitic owners.
To add insult to injury, the largest four private care providers – HC-One, Four Seasons, Care UK and Barchester – have a combined debt of £2.2 billion; and there are calls from the bosses for the state to rescue these companies from bankruptcy with public money.
Any such bailout would simply be paying off this small handful of fat-cat owners at the expense of care workers and service users.
The answer is clear: these private care companies need to be brought under public ownership and workers’ control – integrated into the NHS, local government, and other public services, in order to create a National Care Service that is run in the interests of care home occupants and staff, and not for the profits of the capitalists.
Scandalously, but unsurprisingly, the Tory government is attempting to make workers foot the bill for this crisis. Meanwhile, their chums and cronies in big business are lining their pockets from the public purse.
Increases to income tax and NI contributions are attacks on the working class. Hand-in-hand with the cuts to local council budgets and public services, these austerity policies have a clear aim: to make the working class pay for the crisis of capitalism.
UK poverty charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, has estimated that two million low-income families on benefits will pay an extra £100 a year on the basis of this new tax.
“This extra cost adds insult to injury for these families who are facing a historic £1,040 cut to their annual incomes when Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit are reduced,” a statement from the Foundation remarked.
Meanwhile, the super-rich – who have their wealth in stocks, shares, and property – will remain untouched.
Expropriate the billionaires
Unfortunately, the Labour leadership has missed an open goal in responding to these latest Tory plans.
Instead of calling for public ownership, or providing a clear alternative to the government’s latest attack on workers, Starmer floundered in Parliament yesterday.
When asked to outline Labour’s counter-proposal, meanwhile, a party spokesperson vaguely declared that “there’ll be a need to look at all forms of income”, without saying where the money to fully fund care services should come from.
Welcome to the UK where Parliament just voted by 335 to 243 to get a nurse who has to use a foodbank to pay for social care while a retired billionaire doesn’t have to.— David Schneider (@davidschneider) September 8, 2021
The solution to the social care crisis is not to tax the working class, but to expropriate the enormous fortunes of the capitalists; and to take the top 100 monopolies under public ownership and democratic workers’ control and management, without compensation, as part of a socialist plan of production.
The resources clearly exist to fund decent health and care, welfare, education, housing, and all public services. But this wealth – generated by the working class – sits idly in the hands of the billionaires. And it is they, not workers, who should be made to pay, by taking their accumulated profits and putting them to use for the good of society.