MPs pledge to support a national care service

A UNISON event at parliament sought to ignite the political will in Westminster to make a national care service a reality

Images: Marcus Rose

Over 40 MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates signed pledges in support of a national care service at a UNISON Westminster event, last night (Wednesday).

Coming the day after UNISON hosted the Fabian Society’s National Care Service Summit, which brought together over 80 leading industry stakeholders to examine and debate the detail and practicalities of how to bring about a national care service, the parliamentary event sought to ignite the political will in Westminster to make it a reality.

Hosted by chair of the UNISON group of labour MPs, Liz Twist, the event saw UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea speak alongside Wes Streeting, shadow secretary of state for health and social care, and Sam Thornton, a UNISON member and support worker.

Last week, Mr Streeting became the first politician to sign up to UNISON’s Make Care Work pledge and, speaking to the gathered MPs, he said: “It’s really great to see so many Labour MPs, but also aspiring Labour MPs here.

Wes Streeting speaks to MPs

“What we are setting out to do has escaped and eluded so many previous governments, Labour and Conservative, and that’s to plug the gap in the foundation of the modern welfare state around how we provide care for people in our society.

“That’s not just about old people’s care, it’s also crucial for disabled people of all ages, that they receive the social care that they deserve to lead independent good quality lives.”

He continued: “If we’re serious about building a national care service with all that that entails, and making sure that every person in our society who needs it gets the care that they deserve and that every care professional is valued in the way that they deserve, that takes time, patience and effort.

“I’m really proud of the work we’ve been doing in opposition with UNISON,” he said, thanking Ms McAnea for her leadership in making the campaign a UNISON priority.

And added: “Thanks to UNISON and the Fabian Society, we have a really good foundation of ideas to build on and we have so much evidence and so much insight, and now it’s down to us to turn that into a plan for government and a mandate for government that we need”.

Ms McAnea also spoke to attendees, and opened by thanking Mr Streeting, Andrew Gwynne, the shadow social care minister, and Ms Twist for “taking this into the heart of the Labour Party, the shadow cabinet and hopefully the heart of the government. Your commitment to this is second to none.

Christina McAnea explains why she is so passionate about the campaign

“We all know that social care is broken, that something drastic needs to be done about it. It is an essential service and even if not everyone all the time relies on it, most of us will have to rely on it at some point. How can it be in 2024 that we still haven’t got it right?

Speaking of the campaign, she said: “It’s not just the fact of a national care service [that we need] – but the type of national care service. It’s so important that this is not a top-down solution but that we hear the voices of the people who use the system and who work in the system.

“It’s not going to be easy to fix, it’s going to take time. This is a long-term project. But we absolutely need a government in Westminster that delivers on this, which means we need a Labour government.

“I think this is the right thing for the Labour Party to do, it’s bold, it’s ambitious and it will change this country for the better. And when historians look back, we’ll know we were on the right side of history on this.”

Rounding off the speeches, Ms Thornton told MPs of her personal experiences as a care worker. She said: “We have so much responsibility, you can’t imagine. We are a highly-skilled, trained workforce, I couldn’t give a paracetamol in a hospital, but can give emergency medicines in care.

Sam Thornton gives MPs her personal perspective on working in the care sector

“Good will does not pay the bills. With a national care service we will be recognised as a skilled workforce and our work will be banded like the NHS, giving us the recognition and pay that we deserve.

“Under one umbrella we’ll be able to stand stronger together, work together and build a better care service for our most vulnerable people.”

Christina McAnea signs the pledge with Andrew Gwynne, shadow social care minister