Everything Labour manifesto says about social care, including National Care Service

Keir Starmer’s manifesto hits all the right notes, says Caring Times editor Sam Lewis, but is it all style and no substance? Only time will tell. Here Lewis breaks down the Labour manifesto and what it has to say about social care.

The Labour Party released its 2024 election manifesto today (Thursday, 13 June).

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer addressed the nation, and is clearly looking to poach disaffected Tory voters as he leaned heavily on the idea of a “pro-business” Britain.

He also talked about “wealth creation” and “working people” a lot, and reminded Britons that the country’s hardships of late have been down to 14 years of Conservative rule.

He stopped short of saying ‘Make Britain Great Again’, but it was that sort of sentiment – minus the racism and general right-wing feel any time anyone says ‘Make America Great Again’, of course.

What, however, does Labour’s manifesto say about social care?


Those looking for social care in the Labour manifesto will not immediately be filled with hope.

Just to find the section on social care, readers have to click on the section titled ‘Build an NHS fit for the future’, and will then need to head to the subsection ‘Social care reform’, disappointingly buried beneath even ‘Dentistry rescue plan’.

As far as the actual content of the manifesto, I’m reluctantly impressed, but at the same time a bit concerned by the vagueness of many of the propositions.

The document includes a lot of the key promises we’d been hoping for, but without any solid explanations as to how these things will happen.

Take the pledge to introduce a National Care Service, for example. “Labour will undertake a programme of reform to create a National Care Service, underpinned by national standards, delivering consistency of care across the country,” proclaims the manifesto. There is also talk of “ongoing sustainability”, “high-quality care” and “responsible providers”, but no further explanation of what these goals look like or how we will achieve them.

Two slightly more tangible promises are for a “home-first” ethos towards care, and “a local partnership working between the NHS and social care on hospital discharge“. If implemented properly – and I am aware that’s a big ‘if’ – these things could save the country cash and provide better levels of care and quality of life than we are currently seeing for our elderly and vulnerable.

Another high point is the mention of a “Fair Pay Agreement in adult social care”, but we already knew about that one.

The aspiring PM’s manifesto also said Labour “will guarantee the rights of those in residential care to be able to see their families” – a reference to the campaign for ‘Gloria’s Law’, which came about after many care residents were unable to see their families during the Covid-19 pandemic. Starmer had backed this campaign in the past, so again, this comes as no surprise.

The section on social care finishes with the following points: “As part of the efforts to move healthcare into local communities and professionalise the workforce, we will task regulators with assessing the role social care workers can play in basic health treatment and monitoring.

“Alongside these changes, we will build consensus for the longer-term reform needed to create a sustainable National Care Service. We will explore how we best manage and support an ageing population; how integration with the NHS can be secured; how to best support working-age disabled adults; and how to move to a more preventative system.”

All of these sound like good things, but the phrase “we will explore” and the general vagueness of the promises doesn’t fill me with hope.

Caring Times editor Sam Lewis


There is a lot to be hopeful about here – genuinely. Labour didn’t need to mention a National Care Service, now or ever, but they have done, which to me signals a somewhat genuine intention to improve the sector.

The Fair Pay Agreement sounds like as much as we could have hoped for in terms of care worker pay and recognition for the skilled work they do.

The talk of health and care integration, “home-first” care and improving hospital discharge all make a lot of sense. What’s more, that Labour seems to understand that these three items are very much reliant on one another is promising, because it shows they’ve given a modicum of thought to care.

In a way, they’ve pledged a fair bit more than I was hoping for here. What’s lacking is the ‘how’ – specifically, how they will fund and achieve these goals.

I want to give Starmer the benefit of the doubt, to believe that the ‘how’ will be explained to us later; but I’m equally wary of believing anything a politician says, particularly one on the campaign trail.

As seems to be my mantra nowadays, all we can really do right now is sit back and hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

And if it starts to look like these promises are being swept under the rug or forgotten altogether post-election, then it is up to us, the people of the care sector, to hold Starmer’s feet to the fire and not let him forget what he said today.

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