The UK’s social care system “needs a huge amount of work” and has been “broken for a long time”, Sir Keir Starmer has said.
The Labour leader made the comments after he joined a nationwide clap to mark the NHS’s 72nd birthday.
He told the PA news agency that the care sector “has been fractured”.
“It’s been underfunded, I think the staff have been undervalued and underpaid, and the Prime Minister needs to take responsibility.
“The Conservative Government has been in power for 10 years and therefore they’ve had time to start doing something about social care – they haven’t done it.”
Sir Keir’s comments backed NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, who told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the coronavirus pandemic had shone a “very harsh spotlight” on the “resilience” of the social care system.
Sir Simon said he also wanted to see plans to adequately fund the adult social care sector within a year.
“If any good is to come from this,” Sir Simon said, “in my opinion, we must use this to resolve once and for all to actually properly resource and reform the way in which social care works in this country.
“The reality is that after at least two decades of talking about it, we do not have a fair and properly resourced adult social care system with a proper set of workforce supports.
“I would hope by the time we are sitting down this time next year, on the 73rd birthday of the NHS, that we have actually, as a country, been able to decisively answer the question of how are we going to fund and provide high-quality social care for my parents’ generation.”
Kathryn Smith, chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence says:
“Sir Simon says it’s important to resource and reform care and support; and it’s encouraging that the Department of Health and Social Care are keen on reform as well.
“It’s true that social care needs proper funding and that the workforce needs to be paid properly and have the status that they don’t always enjoy.
But our vision is also of a society where care and support maximises people’s choices and enables them to live a healthy, safe, and fulfilling life. They can achieve this by being active members of their communities.
“It’s vital that the general public and policy makers don’t see social care as simply taking place in care homes, even though they play a key role.”