Government failure to protect care homes during the pandemic is a ‘national scandal’, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told his party’s virtual conference today.
Despite promises from the past three Conservative leaders to sort out social care, Sir Keir claimed there had been a ‘decade of drift’.
He said: ‘Their failure to protect care homes is a national scandal. They still can’t organize a testing regime that’s even serviceable, let alone world beating.’
In a speech that vowed to take his party ‘out of the shadows’, Sir Keir said: ‘If we didn’t realise it already, we’ve learnt that care workers do some of the most vital work in society. Yet they are under-paid, under-recognised, and under-appreciated.
‘Our care workers are heroes. But the social care system in Britain is a disgrace to a rich nation.’
He claimed David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson had all vowed to fix the system but failed – and last week the Government announced further delays to the long-awaited Social Care White Paper.
Sir Keir told the virtual conference: ‘This is a matter of basic fairness and human compassion. The government needs to act and to act now. It must ensure that the mistakes made in the first spike must not happen again this winter. And it must bring forward comprehensive social care reforms that guarantee all care workers at least the real living wage.
‘After a decade of drift, this Government must finally fix our social care system so that it treats those who have given so much with the respect, love and dignity that they deserve.’
Addressing the party from Doncaster, the labour leader accused the government of failing both the young and the old during the pandemic. He said his vision for the country was simple: ‘I want this to be the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.’
He also called for a national strategy, with targets, to close the education gap. ‘If the Prime Minister won’t act, well set up our own taskforce and get on with it. Because if levelling up is to mean anything, it must mean closing the education gap and making sure no child is held back.’