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Justin Welby calls for NHS-style covenant on social care

by Donna Birrell

The Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for reforms in the provision of social care which prioritise the value of the person over the financial cost. 

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, the Most Reverend Justin Welby said there should be a new NHS-style covenant on social care which would make it a national and community obligation rather than just a family obligation. He said the dignity of the person who needs care should be the top priority. 

“We know the vision for the NHS: ‘free care at the point of use’. We keep putting the cart before the horse. We keep talking about how we are going to pay for it when we don’t really know what we want to pay for.

“You have to have a covenantal approach which says regardless of who you are, of your economic value, of your utility, society covenants to give you the best possible care it can as you approach the end of your life.

“It is a community obligation. We have done that in health and education, we need to do that with social care. It is a national obligation, expressed by the state. The state at the very least has to underwrite that covenant, as it does with health.”

 The government is proposing a cap on care costs in England to £86,000 to prevent most people from having to sell their homes to pay for care.  But the pandemic has increased pressure on the sector with around 400,000 people in England waiting for care packages or assessments. 

It’s believed around £7billion is needed to prop up the sector and the House of Lords will soon consider plans for financing the care cap. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has also joined with the Archbishop of York to commission a review of social care which will publish its findings in the Spring.

The government says residents and staff will all benefit from additional funding to support the social care sector with £1.4 billion being made available over the next 3 years. 

The Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“It is vital we continue to do all we can to protect social care during the pandemic and it is more important than ever the sector takes advantage of its priority booster status since the emergence of the Omicron variant.

At the same time we need to plan for the longer term – and this money and the details confirmed will help do that.”

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