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Westminster Hall: National Minimum Wage - Care Sector

I rose at 3.37pm

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Kate Osamor (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I, too, thank my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) for securing this debate.

In September 2015, I made representations to the Minister on behalf of a social care organisation in my constituency, North London Homecare and Support, which was concerned about its financial capability to accommodate the increase in the national living wage. The Minister, in his response, informed me that the Government were working with the social care sector to consider the overall cost of social care and funding for local government, and that the result would be announced in the spending review. In spite of commitments about further funding, however, the social care sector is still not receiving adequate investment.

According to Local Government Association estimates, the social care precept will raise £372 million, which stands far short of the £2 billion figure suggested by the Government. The majority of that will be used to cover 

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the cost of the transition to the new national living wage. In addition, although the better care fund is expected to deliver around £1.5 billion by 2019-20, the gap in social care funding is expected to reach £3.5 billion by the end of the Parliament in 2020.

With an ageing population and an NHS under increasing pressure, it is clear that we need the social care sector.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) on securing the debate. One of the tricks that the Government have pulled is to shove the responsibility for social care on to local authorities. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but what the Government have not done is to give them the resources to do it—they have given them about 2%. Three or four years down the road, we will reach a point when the Government come back and want to cap the local authorities, because they are spending too much—that is what the Government will say. We have had all that before. The other thing we should bear in mind is that at the moment local government is badly funded, to say the least.

Kate Osamor: I could not agree more. Those points are alarming and worry us all, and that is why we have all come to speak in the debate.

Only a thriving social care sector that is valued and respected will be able to give our NHS the support it needs to provide integrated healthcare solutions. The Minister and the Government must accept their responsibility to support social care through the transition to the national living wage and beyond to 2020. Sustainable, long-term investment is desperately needed.

 

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Kate Osamor MP

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