This week’s annual Labour Party conference had a more muted atmosphere than usual. Divisions about the leadership and future direction of the party have been widely reported.

Jeremy Corbyn has yet to appoint new shadow ministers to the front bench, and it’s still unclear whether he can unite the Parliamentary Labour Party sufficiently to do so. One thing that has united Labour MPs, members and the current leadership though, is the issue of social care.

At the numerous Fringe events and roundtable discussions, charities and professionals from the care and support sector gave compelling evidence of the worsening social care crisis. Labour MPs who have been engaged in internal arguments for the last months, came together on panels and agreed that social care must be properly funded so that vulnerable people receive the care and support they so badly need.

Local authority budgets are overstretched

Last year’s Spending Review saw the Government change the way that local authorities are funded. Central Government no longer foots the bill for growing numbers of elderly and disabled people who rely on social care from their local authority to live dignified lives.

Instead the former chancellor, George Osborne introduced the social care precept, allowing local councils to raise council tax specially to fund adult social care. However, to date this new measure has raised less than a quarter of what the Government estimated.

Simply put, local authority budgets are badly overstretched and councils cannot afford to pay for the levels of social care that all political parties agreed are necessary when they voted for the Care Act.

Labour Party Conference 2016 in Liverpool

A new funding solution for social care is essential

All of these issues, and the fact that the current social care crisis is heading towards catastrophe, united everyone at Labour Party conference. But what seemed to be missing from debates, and even from speeches from senior Labour politicians, were solutions to the social care funding problem.

It is easy to say that social care needs to be properly funded. But it is far harder to actually do what the government badly needs to do, and actually deliver the massive investment that social care requires.

The public widely respect the NHS and are broadly happy for Government to use tax revenue to pay for health care services. If the profile of social care can be similarly raised so that British people know what these vital services are, and how well they can provide dignity and independence, then perhaps new solutions can be found.

Urging MPs to address the crisis in social care

At conference, our campaigns team met Labour MPs who have our services within their constituencies to talk about our concerns for the future. We asked them to put pressure on the Government to address the crisis in social care ahead of the Autumn statement in November. But we also urged Labour MPs to sit down with their colleagues from across the political divide to debate long term solutions and sustainable funding for social care, which has the same popular support that the NHS has.

As part of this, next month United Response will be relaunching our Postcards from the Edges campaign. We want people who receive social care, their friends, family and carers to send us a message about why this support is so important. Because social care isn’t an abstract concept, it’s the way in which hundreds of thousands of people are able to live happy, dignified and independent lives. Without it, vulnerable people cannot live their lives to the full, and society as a whole is diminished.

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