Public Services:
Health & Social
Care; Education

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The Big Picture


“The idea that every child, in every part of the country, should have a fair chance…is not only the most important thing we can do to unleash the UK’s potential, but is at the heart of creating a fair and just society.” 

(2019 Conservative & Unionist Party Manifesto, p.13) 


Delivering on our manifesto promise for a long-term NHS plan, the Government began the year by enshrining in law the largest cash settlement in NHS history, placing a legal duty on the Government to guarantee a minimum level of spending every year.


In the spring, the CPF held its consultation on the government’s response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. From the first of our weekly reports, CPF groups were clear in warning of “the damaging impact that the current restrictions are having on many areas of our national life—from individuals’ physical and mental health to the education of school children and university students.”


Several months on, the early indicators have become clearer. A government report in July concluded that “the health impacts from a lockdown and lockdown induced recession are greater…than the direct COVID-19 deaths.” It cautioned, “Much of the health impact, particularly in terms of morbidity, will be felt long after the pandemic is assumed to last. … The main morbidity impacts of the lockdown are expected to come from an estimated increase in musculoskeletal conditions, increased domestic abuse, and increased mental health problems.”


Another government report expressed concern in September over the “disproportionate impact of some of the measures taken to stop the spread of the disease” on, among other areas, children’s education, particularly those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). According to education charities, this is expected to have “substantial negative labour market impacts for those from less-well off groups, their chances of social mobility, and on the economy in general.”

All of this reinforces why we pledged in our manifesto to use part of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to “give disadvantaged people the skills they need to make a success of life.”


Part One: Health & Social Care


“We already know that we need a fairer system for paying for care, that protects people from the exorbitant costs that require them to sell their home. And that we need to get more money overall into social care and fix the funding shortfall. Achieving this will involve bold reforms, not just about funding, but also effective structures for oversight and accountability.”

(Health & Social Care Secretary, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP)


In response to the 2018 CPF consultation on health and social care, CPF Groups highlighted that “Health outcomes are the most important measure of success.” Specific proposals included:


  • Integrate NHS & Social Care budgets and consider making CCGs accountable to their local population by devolving responsibility to regionally-elected “Health Commissioners”.

  • Publicise and implement the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations.


As part of our manifesto commitments to reduce health inequality and to treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health, the Health & Social Care Secretary has since set out two goals for the NHS: to extend healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035; and to increase public confidence in the NHS by making the NHS “as good at process and admin as it is at medicine.”


Questions for discussion


  • Should the Government play a role in local NHS decision-making? If so, in what ways?

  • How could the health and social care systems be joined up better?

  • What mental health support would you expect from central government and from workplaces?

  • How can we best provide support for children and young people’s mental health?

  • Is there any other observation you would like to make?


Part Two: Education


“There has never been a more important time to speak about mental health and wellbeing – especially for thousands of children, young people and teachers who are adapting to education and different ways of living and learning in these unprecedented times.”

(Children and Families Minister, Vicky Ford MP)


In 2017 we held a consultation on higher education. CPF Groups proposed measures such as:


  • Establish an open, transparent and fair, national clearing-house for apprenticeships, just as we have UCAS for university places.

  • More transparency and accountability on university costs.

  • Immediately abolish the 6% compound interest rate on university loans.


In May 2019, a wide-ranging review of post-18 education led by Dr Philip Augar was published. As our manifesto noted, this “made thoughtful recommendations on tuition fee levels, the balance of funding between universities, further education and apprenticeships and adult learning.”


Delivering on our manifesto commitment to invest in schools and technical education, the Government recently announced a Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This will give adults the chance to take free college courses valued by employers and to obtain flexible loans that allow courses to be taken in segments, boosting opportunities to retrain and enhancing the nation’s technical skills.


Questions for discussion


  • To what extent should the awarding of A-Level and GCSE grades in 2021 seek to recognise that some students will have faced more disruption this year than others? In what circumstances, if any, should provision be made for some students to get a grade without sitting an exam?

  • How can we best keep universities open and ensure a fair deal for students?

  • What are the most important interventions the Government should make to support further education, retraining and technical/vocational skills?

  • Is there any other observation you would like to make?


The Queen’s Speech


The Queen’s Speech set out a variety of measures to support public services:

  • Legislation will enshrine in law the largest cash settlement in the NHS’s history and we will deliver the NHS Long Term Plan in England to ensure our health service is fit for the future.

  • A Medicines and Medical Devices Bill will ensure that our NHS and patients can have faster access to innovative medicines, while supporting the growth of our domestic sector.

  • We will also establish the world’s first independent body—the Health Service Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB)—to investigate patient safety concerns and share recommendations to prevent similar incidents recurring.

  • We will provide extra funding for social care and will urgently seek cross-party consensus for much needed long-term reform so that nobody needing care should be forced to sell their home to pay for it.

  • We will continue work to modernise and reform the Mental Health Act to ensure people get the support they need, with a much greater say in their care.

  • We will increase levels of funding per pupil to ensure all children can access a high quality education.


Recent Government Action


  • Linking up the NHS and social care at a local level through the Better Care Fund, ensuring services are more joined up for patients.

  • Publishing a new adult social care winter plan, to help curb the spread of COVID-19 throughout the winter months. This includes limiting the movement of staff between care homes and delivering free PPE for care workers and for people receiving social care.

  • Launching the largest hospital building program in a generation: to build 40 new hospitals and upgrade 20 more, including 300 new MRI and CT scanners; and to modernise the mental health estate and expand A&E capacity.

  • Legislating in 2012 for parity of esteem to the treatment of mental health, with plans to reform the Mental Health Act to give people greater control over their treatment, so that they receive the dignity and respect they deserve.

  • Expanding access to community-based mental health services, providing counselling, mentoring and wellbeing programmes, including school and college-based mental health support teams, to meet the needs of more children and young people.

  • Levelling up funding across the country, so every pupil in every school gets a funding boost.

  • Establishing free schools and academies, so more children have access to a good school place. The 500 free schools that have opened since 2010 have created 133,000 school places across the country. Over 40 per cent are in the 30 per cent most deprived communities in the country and 18 per cent of all free schools are dedicated to special needs or alternative provision.

  • Introducing new inspection measures to boost standards in schools, enabling Ofsted to conduct longer inspections covering the full breadth of a school’s activity, no notice inspections, and end inspection exemptions for outstanding schools.


For more information including links to the sources of this information, download the full briefing document.

CONSERVATIVE

POLICY FORUM

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