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BASW in Westminster: Conservative Conference 2020

By Kerri Prince, Public and Political Affairs Lead for BASW UK

Boris Johnson’s conference speech was full of illustrative metaphors, combative similes, and vibrant catchphrases – which resulted in me having to spend much of his speech googling terms he used and looking for direct quotes on Twitter to understand what he was actually saying.

For those hoping that the Prime Minister would use this high profile speech to tell the country the ambitious plans to tackle the crisis in health and social care, or addressing the severity of what COVID-19 is doing to the health of our people and our economy, they would have come away feeling disappointed and uninformed.

We heard a re-commitment of the “48 new hospitals” (which have been debunked as not being new), a passing comment on how COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on challenges facing the care sector (some would argue the spotlight has always been there but the Government hasn’t been looking), and talk about ‘levelling-up’. This mirrored much of the discussion that took place in the fringe events that I attended.

In a direct contrast to Labour conference, many of the Conservative conference fringe events were sponsored by private businesses and consultancies which bought them a spot on the panel alongside MPs, Ministers, and other stakeholders. There was not much presence in these discussions of people with lived experience of the health and social care issues. The Conservatives’ mantra of ‘levelling up’ was repeated throughout, and when talk of investing in health and social care did come up it was framed around how it can be ‘blamed’ on COVID-19 rather than the years of underspend in these sectors.

I came away from this conference being none the wiser on what the Government are going to do to tackle the crisis in social care, and how we as a country give people the support that they need to live full, happy lives.