Health and Social Care Levy debate

In debate on 8 September, I highlighted that the UK Government’s proposed Social Care Levy is regressive. It will hit lower-paid people, it will hit the younger generation, it will stifle recovery because it is simply a tax on jobs, it will take money out of local economies and remove spending power.

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), because I do welcome the fact that this debate is happening and that there is an attempt to find a solution to something that absolutely has been kicked down the road. However, I am very disappointed that despite the rhetoric there was no attempt at cross-party contact or to achieve consensus and agree a long-term solution.

I also feel that this proposal is regressive. It will hit lower-paid people, including the key workers we were clapping for just 18 months ago. It will hit the younger generation, who have been hit from multiple directions and will not have the benefits that we have been lucky enough to have in our lifetimes. It will stifle recovery because it is simply a tax on jobs. Like previous social security cuts driven by Tory austerity, it will take money out of local economies and remove spending power. That means increasing poverty—the single biggest driver of ill-health.

In Scotland, that will impact on our aim to have a wellbeing recovery from covid. That is why we object to this measure and why we object to the Prime Minister saying that he will direct how the spending is used. Income tax would have been a fairer method. It is paid by wealthy pensioners, as I will probably be in a few years’ time. It is paid more by people who earn more. It does not hit wealth, but there other taxes that could have been used to do that. The Scottish Government already took action in 2018 by adding a penny to all our tax bands so that we had more money for health and social care. We do not just provide free prescriptions; we are the only UK nation that provides free personal care, and in 2019, that was extended to those in need below the age of 65. That is something to which other nations within the UK should be aspiring. It allows people to stay at home and to have greater independence, and that is how we should be looking on it. The Feeley review, which the Scottish Government commissioned, asks us to turn it around, to stop seeing social care as a burden and instead to see it as a way of allowing the people affected, whether due to disability or age, to still be part of our society.

We object to the undermining of devolution, because it is the Scottish Parliament that has responsibility for the strategy of health and social care. Our health and social care landscape is quite different. Not only do we have free personal care; we also still have a unified, public NHS. We have been integrating with social care since 2013, so to say that suddenly we will hand that control over to the Prime Minister—I am sorry, but that will not wash. The national care service proposal from the Feeley review recognises that we already pay the living wage and we pay for overnight sleepovers. What we actually need for social care in all four nations is to develop social care as a career, so that people stay there and commit to it. It is not just a job that someone does until they can get on the checkout at Tesco. It is a simple fact that above all other careers, care is delivered by people, for people. That is where any plan should start. If there is focus on the workforce, we may end up with a care service that we can be proud of and that will deliver for all