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Editor's blog Tuesday 7 June 2011: Text of Ed Miliband speech on NHS reform and social care

Before your questions, I want to talk about how I see the political landscape and then say something about the social care issue.


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After a year of this government, it is clear that they have been reckless on the key issues that matter to people.

On the NHS, the David Cameron is today making history. He will be the first Prime Minister to have to set out five pledges to protect the health service from himself, his Government and his policy.

Yet he has already broken at least two of these pledges: on maximum waiting times and on protecting the NHS budget.

Hundreds of millions of pounds, which should be being used for patient care, is being wasted on handing out redundancy notices to staff from primary care trusts who may well have to re-hired.

David Cameron has spent a year mismanaging the NHS and the consequence is chaos, confusion and damaged patient care.

And on the issue which this Conservative-led Government has elevated above all others – deficit reduction – doubts are growing about their approach.

In the last week alone we have seen a range of figures reflecting the damaging impact of the Government's austerity rhetoric on confidence of British firms and British consumers.

These worrying signs make many people very suspicious of those who say there should be no debate about the direction of economic policy in our country.

As we have said before, Labour would be tackling the deficit created by the global financial crisis.

But as we have repeatedly warned, this Government is going too far and fast, hitting families and making it harder to reduce the deficit.

Labour’s balanced plan would get the deficit down and put jobs first, getting people into work and off benefits.

But my criticism of this Government’s economic policy - and indeed its whole approach - goes much further.

Beyond austerity and pessimism, they have set out no sense of the big challenges facing the country, no plan for the future, and no sense of our national mission.

They didn’t do it in Opposition, and that’s why they failed to win a majority at the election.

And they haven’t done it in government either.

The British people want more from their politics.

That is why since I became leader of the Labour Party, I have set out about the three big challenges facing Britain today and in the future.

The unprecedented risk to the promise of Britain that the next generation should do better than the last.

And now there is a debate, led by Labour, about how a whole generation of young people can get jobs, education and housing.

The emergence of a new inequality between not just the top and the bottom but between the very wealthy and everybody else.

When I first talked about this idea of the squeezed middle, people wondered what it meant.

Now there is a growing awareness it is a reality for people up and down this country and it demands we create a different kind of economy.

And the third challenge, how we build strong communities, about the ties that bind us together – friends, family and community life – is once more territory my party is occupying.

These are insights which speak to my politics and values but they reflect the thousands of conversations that we, as a party, have been having with the British people in the initial stages of our policy review.

This is what I meant when I said the first stage for any Opposition must be to go out, listen and understand.

Instead of opting for easy answers and quick-fix solutions, I want my party to be crystal clear that our mission is to meet these challenges facing the future of our country.

It is not enough simply to be a good opposition.

It is not even enough to address the issues where we lost trust.

Given the scale of the challenges facing Britain, we must once again be the party which offers a compelling and optimistic future.

Labour is determined to offer Britain a new sense of national mission - a sense of hope and purpose - which contrasts with the narrow pessimism of the Tories.

And over the coming months, myself and key shadow cabinet colleagues will be talking about these challenges and how we tackle them.

Let me now say something about one long term issue, which has surfaced again in the past week.

The problem of adult social care is not new.

But this generation of politicians owes it not just to vulnerable adults now but to the next generation, our children, to sort these problems out - not to leave them with a legacy of rising costs, falling standards and a care system in decline.

The Panorama investigation, the events at Southern Cross and the forthcoming Dilnot review all demand our urgent attention.

I was shocked by the scenes from the Winterborne View care home.

They sickened me.

They shame our country.

The Government appears to believe that reviews by the Care Quality Commission and by South Gloucestershire Council are enough.

It is not because these bodies were involved in the failure itself.

There must be an independent investigation into what happened and what lessons need to be learned and the Government should announce it straight away.

At Southern Cross, it is plain wrong that financiers creamed off millions, while as we now know the care of tens of thousands of elderly people was being put at risk.

They seem to have been treated merely as commodities.

As we have seen previously with the banks, there are industries – and health and social care services are one such example - where corporate failure can have consequences far beyond the loss to shareholders and investors.

Just as with the banks, in the end the government would have to step in and pick up the tab.

We should not jump to the conclusion that all private homes are bad.

They are not.

But for these industries, effective regulation is critical.

Currently regulation looks at the quality of care provided.

The Government must now also look at whether the regulation of this sector should be extended to cover the financial stability of organisations which provide these vital services for hundreds of thousands of elderly people.

The Government owes it to taxpayers, and they owe it to vulnerable people in these homes, and they owe it to their families.

We cannot let Southern Cross happen again.

Ahead of the findings of the Government’s Dilnot commission into the future of our care system, what has happened in recent weeks raises important questions about the future of our system of care.

Not just about inspection and regulation.

It raises questions about the status we give to people who perform the essential task of looking after elderly and vulnerable people.

If it was my mother or father I would want the best, most qualified, people looking after them. Paid a decent wage.

How we care for the elderly and vulnerable is a key test for the kind of country we are.

And there are other questions.

How we pay for care.

What sort of care is available.

We all know that this is a mounting crisis affecting millions of families round this country.

Whether it is elderly people in care homes or those living at home, all of us know somebody who is facing the terrible anxiety caused by the inadequate care system.

That is set to get worse as a result of reduced budgets over the coming years.

What care should be provided and how it should be paid for will be addressed by the Dilnot commission when it reports before the summer recess.

But we all know that there have been lots of reports into social care over the years.

Every serious attempt to solve this pressing challenge has foundered, often on the failure to find a political consensus.

The most recent example was the break-up of cross-party talks by the Conservatives when they were in opposition so they could scaremonger about death taxes and benefit changes.

I want to make a serious offer to David Cameron today.

Let’s engage in cross-party talks around the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations to deliver the care system we need.

We will come to those talks with an open mind about the best way forward, not simply advocating what we have proposed in the past.

But the principles are clear – high quality care for those that need it, funded in a fair way, with properly accountability for those who deliver the care.

Let’s give the British people the serious debate they deserve, so they can get the care system they deserve.

It’s not just for the sake of our elderly parents but for our children who will inherit the country we are building.

Let us make this the first step towards creating a fully reformed care system where people can grow old with dignity.

Let’s get round the table, work in the national interest, towards real change which addresses one of the big long term problems in our country.