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Poll positions

Poll positions

The General Election looks set to be one of the most unpredictable in decades. But pollsters and political commentators point towards one certainty – the likelihood of another hung parliament.No party is seen as gaining enough ground to form a majority government, leaving us with the prospect of another coalition.In their election guide, public affairs consultants Fishburn ask if this is The election nobody can win?“There are so many factors that make the next election so unpredictable and so fascinating. But the most important is the near breakdown of the two-party system that’s been in place since the 1920s. In 1951, the two major parties polled 97% of the vote between them. By the last election that share had fallen to 65%. Polls taken in recent months have seen both parties fall below a combined share of 60%..”So, one more thing we can be certain of is that politicians will be hitting the campaign trail harder and for longer than ever before. It will be a bitter fight right up until the day of voting on 7 May.The positions that the political parties are taking on social care and housing are beginning to emerge. Thought Leader has trawled through the mass of political speeches, campaign material and policy statements to give you an idea of what we can expect to hear from the parties on housing and social care.Solving the housing crisisThe housing crisis will ensure that housing is one the big issues in the election campaigns.Lack of investment over decades has left demand for housing far outstripping the number of new homes being built. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced help for first-time buyers under the age of 40, plus 100,000 new homes to be built for them. Meanwhile, Labour has promised to build 200,000 a year by 2020, including new garden towns and cities. The Lib Dems also promise to create new garden cities and build 300,000 house a year.As for social and rented accommodation, Labour announced greater powers for councils to reduce the number of empty homes, plus a cap on rent increases in the private sector and an end to estate agents’ letting fees. Meanwhile, Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party oppose the Spare Room Subsidy, otherwise known as the ‘bedroom tax’.The Greens also plan to build 500,000 social houses by 2020. Their other plans include introducing a rent cap on private lets; reducing rent in line with incomes, and allowing homeowners to transfer ownership of the house to the council if they could not meet mortgage repayments. UKIP plan to encourage housebuilding by establishing a brownfield agency to incentivise the building of houses on brownfield sites.As a brief overview, this seems to point at common consensus amongst the main parties that housebuilding is a priority and is planned on a large scale. However, it is worth remembering that housing experts estimate that 220,000 to 250,000 new homes are needed each year in the UK to meet demand – that target has not been hit; in 2014 the figure was not quite 141,000.There also seems to be consensus on giving local authorities more powers to invest in housing, and encouraging partnership working with housing associations and private organisations.Whatever the result of the General Election, all parties seem set on radical reform to address the housing shortage – it’s overdue, but is that finally about to change?Improving social careOn 1 April 2015, the Care Act came into force while it is early days itis set to have a deep impact on social care.A core part of the Act is the duty it places on care commissioners to facilitate and shape a vibrant, responsive and sustainable market of service providers.The main aim of the Act, of course, is to make deep-rooted improvements to social care. The Act doesn’t bring with it the promise of any new funding – so what help (if any) will a new government offer?Parties seem to be agreed that health and social care needs to be further integrated.According to the health research and analysis charity, the King’s Fund, the Conservatives will continue to ring-fence the NHS budget and give patients access to GP services from 8am-8pm 7 days a week.Labour promises a national health and care service to integrate health, mental health and social care services. It will also open a ‘new route’ into nursing and social care via apprenticeships and technical degrees.The Lib Dems say they will pool health and social care budgets, and introduce an annual £250 bonus for carers looking after someone for 35+ hours a week in a year.The Green Party promises to repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and ensure a ‘public NHS’, and also give all people over 65 free social care. Meanwhile, UKIP plan to increase social care for older people by £1 billion a year and replace the Care Quality Commission with ‘county health boards’. They will also make hospital carparks in England free of charge.Undoubtedly, social care has been hit hard by drastic cuts. The King’s Fund notes, in it’s 2014 report Priorities for the next government, that “cuts in funding have led to a reduction of more than a quarter in the number of people who receive publicly funded social care.”The main parties appear to acknowledge the need for reform in adult social care, but while the focus is on how to protect NHS budgets, less attention is paid to social care. Will a new government find funds to lead reforms that the Care Act will set in action?As we draw nearer to polling day, the ideas and policies of all the parties should (should!) become clearer. But what won’t be so clear is what deals will be done, what policies will be conceded, in order to try to wrestle control in a hung parliament?

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