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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Black

New Dog........Old Tricks

Monday brought about the launch of the ‘New Conservatives’, a group of 25 mainly red wall MPs all elected in the last 3 general elections.

The group is most definitely not a who’s who of well known politicians and consists of:

Lee Anderson (Ashfield)

Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge)

Danny Kruger (Devizes)

Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North)

Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley)

Sarah Atherton (Wrexham)

Tom Hunt (Ipswich)

Gareth Bacon (Orpington)

Duncan Baker (North Norfolk)

Paul Bristow (Peterborough)

Brendan Clarke-Smith (Bassetlaw)

James Daly (Bury North)

Anna Firth (Southend West)

Chris Green (Bolton West)

Eddie Hughes (Walsall North)

Mark Jenkinson (Workington)

Andrew Lewer (Northampton South)

Marco Longhi (Dudley North)

Robin Millar (Aberconwy)

Lia Nici (Great Grimsby)

Their prime objective is to reduce immigration and have come up with 10 point policy to do so:

  1. Closing temporary schemes that grant work visa eligibility for care workers and senior care workers.

  2. Raising the minimum income required to gain a skilled work visa.

  3. Extending the closure of the student dependant route.

  4. Closing the graduate route to students.

  5. Reserving university Study Visas for the brightest international students.

  6. Monitoring the reduction in visa applications under the humanitarian schemes.

  7. Implementing the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill rapidly.

  8. Capping the number of refugees legally accepted for resettlement in the UK.

  9. Raising the minimum combined income threshold for sponsoring a spouse and raising the minimum language requirement

  10. Capping the amount of social housing that councils may assign to non-UK nationals.

Rishi Sunak and many others on the front bench have been tacitly quiet over this and made no response to their pledges as yet. Perhaps this is a unique case of the sinking ship leaving the rats behind?

Many of the New Conservatives spoke at the National Conservatism Conference back in May this year and Damian Green called them out for dreadful speeches and said that ‘what they are promising is a better yesterday’. I couldn’t agree more.

It is the New Conservatives' first pledge to close work visas for care workers which is perhaps the most baffling. As the NHS turns a grand old age of 75 this week, is this idea of managed decline through a reduction in care workers seriously what they want?

With over 1.65 million jobs, the adult social care workforce is larger than the NHS, construction, transport, or food and drink service industries. The number of jobs in adult social care is forecast to grow by almost one third by 2035. As the population grows, and the way care is delivered evolves and diversifies, the adult social care workforce will need to grow and develop with it. That surely includes a plan to increase care workers not reduce them. All the training in the world will mean that there is still a significant shortfall in labour for social care in the short to medium term.

There have been many broken promises under the Tories to set out an overarching strategy for social care. Many white, green and other papers have been published but all with very little action and certainly very little difference to the sector. One paper that didn’t hold back was Care and Support Reimagined (A National Care Covenant for England) published by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury. Something which you would think that Miriam Cates, Danny Kruger, and Nick Fletcher (who all self describe as Christians) would subscribe to.

The paper set out that:

Although additional resources from the Government helped with immediate pressures, staff shortages have worsened, with ‘care deserts’ in some parts of the country. There are 165,000 vacancies, a 55% increase in just one year.9 By spring 2022 over 500,000 people were waiting for social care and there has been a 43% rise in the last year of the number of home care hours that could not be delivered due to care worker shortages. According to Directors of Adult Social Services, the situation is getting worse not better. There is not a recovery plan for social care, unlike the NHS.

Those figures are nothing short of a ticking time bomb. Unfortunately a bomb which for millions in this country has already meant lives wasted which could have been better lived had investment and resources in social care been taken seriously. This group of MPs are now content to wreck more lives by restricting resources in the care sector. But it's ok though - they'll reduce immigration in doing so!

I know this blog post is more related to politics than my usual moans about planning and if that has offended or annoyed you in anyway then frankly, you can jog on.

But there were two reasons I wanted to write something about this. Firstly, my dad is currently in hospital recovering from a severe chest infection. He’s not necessarily ill enough to still be in a hospital bed but he isn’t well enough to go home. His care in the NHS has been excellent but it is clear it is a service that is highly reliant on labour from outside of this country. But is is also a service that is all the better because of that. There is nowhere local for him to go as there is zero capacity. The solution is a fully functioning and integrated Social Care and Health Service. That solution does not exist. This is because of a lack resources and investment in our social care.

Secondly, sometimes you need to use whatever platform you have to call these things out. As I read and heard about the pledges being made about immigration (and many others being made by the Tories in recent times) it reminded me of a poem by Martin Niemoller called First They Came which I will leave you with:

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me

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