Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women's Equality Party.
After more than a decade of cuts, our social care system is in crisis. It is in crisis because care is seen as an expense rather than a valuable investment, and because - like all forms of care - our government still relies on the fact that women will do it for little or no pay.
The Covid pandemic should have changed that, because when everything else was shut down it was our social infrastructure that had to keep going and that kept us all going (the NHS, social care, education and childcare). These services are essential, relied on by all of us across our lives, and should be valued as such.
The Prime Minister’s announcement today misses that opportunity, and worse than that it risks deepening inequalities across the UK - not only in terms of age, race, disability and class, but between men and women too. Women are more likely to both need and provide care, yet you will struggle to find any mention of us in discussions about this policy.
So let me be clear, increasing National Insurance contributions harms women, who make up the poorest half of the population. It is a regressive policy that is paid by those who work - starting at a lower threshold than income tax - rather than those who earn enough to pay for it. It is a cost that most cannot afford in the context of stagnating wages and rising costs. And it doesn’t come with a plan for how to improve the quality of care, access to care, or pay and conditions for social care workers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Women’s Equality Party is calling for a national care service that is free at the point of use; delivers the quality and range of care that people want and need; that offers the training, pay and progression that our care workers deserve, and that doesn’t rely on women’s unpaid labour. There are a multitude of ways that this could be funded that help create a fairer society, including borrowing to invest (just as we do with road building), closing the loopholes that allow big business (including social care companies) to avoid and evade taxes, increasing capital gains tax, or introducing wealth taxes. We will continue to campaign for the transformative investment that is needed.