WBG says we should develop a National Care Service we can be as proud of as we are the NHS

Date Posted: Thursday 8th June 2023

Social Care

The Women’s Budget Group responds to Support Guaranteed, a road map to a National Care Service published by the Fabian Society today.

The report was commissioned by UNISON and formed the Fabian Society’s response to Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Wes Streeting MP, who asked them to look at how to establish and develop a National Care Service over the course of a decade.

The report highlights the gendered nature of social care:

  • Women make up 57 per cent of people who rely on long-term care,
  • 60 per cent of unpaid carers providing 20 or more hours of care per week,
  • and 82 per cent of the care workforce.

And provides a worked example of the gendered impact of spending an additional £1 bn raised from income tax on adult social care[1].

In response to the report, Dr Mary-Ann Stephenson, WBG Director, said,

“The undervaluing of women’s unpaid and low paid care is at the heart of women’s economic inequality, setting up a lifetime of lower pay, lower earnings, lower savings and less wealth than men. So we are delighted that this report recognises the gendered dynamic of social care and  welcome the detailed concrete recommendations for a ten year project developing a National Care Service.

“Women are the majority of those in receipt of care, those providing unpaid care, and those working in formal care roles. An investment in care funded through taxation would be a transfer from wallet to purse – as evidenced in the report’s worked example. On the other hand, progress towards women’s economic equality with men is jeopardised by the ongoing political failures to prioritise care.

“Given the stark number of 165,000 vacancies in social care, the growing need for carers with our ageing population, and the rise in the number of people who are economically inactive due to caring responsibilities, We also welcome the focus on workforce as a priority building block in the roadmap to a National Care Service.

“We cannot afford to keep losing dedicated hard working care workers to supermarkets because they pay more and conditions are less stressful. Neither can we afford for women in their 50s and 60s to drop out of formal work before they would want to, to pick up the unpaid care work of loved ones only to find their own health deteriorates as a result.

“As relational work, social care is an inherently low carbon sector and expanding jobs in low carbon sectors needs to be part of the transition to a green and sustainable economy, which Labour has said it is committed to deliver.

“The Fabian Society report focuses on gradual reforms to make social care more accessible and fairer. WBG has called for a free at the point of need universal care service. The  fairest way to share the costs of care would be through taxes and Government borrowing to invest in a healthy society and economy, rather than by the roll of a dice on the  condition or impairment someone happens to have at the time of need and their ability to pay.

“Our modelling with NEF combined the cost of reforms needed to provide a universal quality social care system and estimated the core costs would be £52bn a year, boosting tax receipts by £14bn. We estimate a further £19bn is needed to truly transform social care, which is still less than half of NHS England’s budget.

“Developing a National Care Service that we can be as proud of globally as we are of the NHS would signify a country that invests in its people, in its future and in gender equality.”

[1] See page 22

About the Women’s Budget Group

The UK Women’s Budget Group (WBG) is the UK’s gender equality think tank, providing evidence and analysis on women’s economic position and proposing policy alternatives for a gender-equal economy. We act as a link between academia, the women’s voluntary sector and progressive economic think tanks.

For more information or further comment, contact

erin.mansell@wbg.org.uk / press@wbg.org.uk / 07799116631


[1]  See page 22