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Archbishops call for radical re-design of social care

by Donna Birrell

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling for a radical redesign of England's social care system - and it could mean tax rises are needed to pay for it.

In a report published today, Most Rev Justin Welby and Most Rev Stephen Cottrell say there needs to be a National Care Covenant which will hold the government, communities and individuals responsible for caring for the elderly and disabled.

They say the Covenant would include investment for communities and a new deal for unpaid carers.

The report doesn’t overtly specify the need for tax rises to pay for the overhauled system, but co-author of the report, Rt Rev James Newcombe the Bishop of Carlisle told Premier :

“We're very aware that this is not going to be cheap. Our primary view is that to pay for it that's going to have to come out of taxation. And we're looking for something fairly universal.

”We would like to see a covenant rather like the military covenant that currently exists in this country, which sets out rather more clearly who's responsible for what and what we can expect, and helps us to recognise that whether it's from a financial point of view, or in terms of actually doing stuff, we all have a part to play.”

The report, which was commissioned by the Archbishops, asked nine experts to reimagine social care through a lens of Christian theology, tradition and values. The work began in the Summer of 2021 and included listening to and engaging with people who draw on care and support, their carers, and experts within the sector.

It recommends simplifying the assessment process around social care, trusting people to manage their own care and decide what help they need and independent advocacy to help people access their rights and entitlements.

The Archbishops’ Commission says it recognises the ‘lack of progress that has been made in implementing the proposals of previous high-profile reports, and highlights the need for a broad coalition – including politicians, faith communities, charities, and user-led organisations – to take action.’

Welcoming the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, who has described the social care system as 'broken' said:

“This report gives me hope that we can rise to the challenge of fixing our broken social care system. Jesus Christ offers every human being life in all its fullness, and so we must broaden our understanding of care and support as the means by which everyone, regardless of age or ability, can experience abundant life. Rooted in the right values, the development of a National Care Covenant is a step towards this, where everyone is engaged in a collaborative effort to ensure that we can all access the care and support we need.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, said:

"This report outlines a new vision for our society where we learn to be inter-dependent with one another, where I thrive because you do, and together we live in a country where we serve one another and flourish together. I pray that this report is the beginning of a wider national conversation about what it means to be a caring society.”

Responding to the report, Stephen Hammersley, Chief Executive of Pilgrims’ Friend Society said :

“The Archbishops’ Reimagining Care Commission is a chance for the church to be a powerful tool for social transformation.

“I welcome the call issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to “reimagine care” so that our most vulnerable adults have all they need to live well until the very end of their lives.”






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