OPINION: Nugent CEO’s ‘cautious optimism’ for new Labour government

“I’m embracing Labour’s win with a sense of cautious optimism,” said Jo Henney, CEO of care and education charity Nugent, on Keir Starmer’s new government. Read more below.

Jo Henney, CEO, Nugent

Although I want the result to spark real change for our strained social care sector, I am reluctant to get my hopes up until we understand the full implications of funding and implementing the new policies pledged by Sir Keir Starmer and his party.

The Young Futures programme is the first policy I’m encouraged by in Labour’s manifesto. Nugent supports the most vulnerable people in society from the beginning to the end of their life and there is a big difference in how people’s lives turn out depending on where they started and the opportunities they were given.

The Young Futures programme will focus on preventing crime and addressing the rising mental health issues in young people. This will be achieved by bringing services together at a local level through a network of Young Futures hubs, youth workers in A&E units, custody centres, pupil referral units and communities to reach those people starting to be drawn into violence.

Working at a local level will build a community support network for our young people and will create a sense of place, pride, opportunity and support for future generations.

Children of those who are imprisoned are also at far greater risk of being drawn into crime, so Labour’s plan to identify children of offenders and offer support to break the cycle is imperative. With a strong strategy behind it, I am certain that this policy will drive a reduction in negative outcomes for young people across the UK.

Labour’s promise to work with local government to support children in care through kinship, foster care and adoption is important to us as a charity that has its own adoption service.

Every child should have the right to family life and should be brought up in families that can provide stable, loving care, guidance and a sense of self-worth, identity and belonging. I’m pleased that this is a key focus for the new government.

The Labour Party has also promised a National Care Service, delivering consistency of care across the country.

This includes establishing a Fair Pay Agreement for adult social care and moving care into the local community by assessing the role social care workers can play in basic health treatment and monitoring.

If implemented properly, this will help to alleviate pressure on the NHS and give care workers the respect they deserve in these skilled roles.

Our social care system is stretched to its limits, we are desperate for robust, sustainable policies to ensure long-term stability to protect the dignity and well-being of the most vulnerable people in society – temporary fixes or performative words will not suffice.

In the short term, Labour must implement an immediate, confident plan to address the inherited state of the sector – the basics need to be done well before the grander-scale plans can be built on top.

These short-term actions need to: address critical staffing shortages and resource needs; enhance pay, better working conditions and mental health support for care workers to attract and retain skilled professionals and stabilise the sector; and reduce administrative burdens and improve service delivery.

Over the coming years, I hope to work with policymakers and the community to ensure that the voices of those we serve are heard and their needs are prioritised – together, we can strive for a brighter, more inclusive future.

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