Faced with a growing social care crisis - growing demand, not enough money and too few care staff, Norfolk can’t sit back and watch the decline in standards of care for vulnerable people.

Yes we need better long-term funding but meanwhile we have to squeeze every penny of value out of every pound we spend and get creative finding better ways of spending what we have.

Whatever outcome the general election brings, it won’t suddenly start raining money.

Additional long-term funding and an abysmally overdue clear sense of government direction needs to be matched by local action on value for money and innovation. Norfolk Conservatives have poured money into a broken care system for too long.

It’s time for a radical rethink to streamline and rationalise how care is commissioned and delivered by Norfolk County Council.

Currently Norfolk County Council contracts with more than 400 different care providers while at the same time in NorseCare owns one of the leading care companies in the country.

That’s 400 plus sets of overheads, management costs, transaction costs and private profits. A total of 79 per cent of children’s homes in the UK are run by private companies for profit - the largest 20 alone make more than £300m profit annually.

Private equity companies are overcharging - fleecing councils for scarce care for vulnerable children they see as the route to a rich payday at public expense. It’s wildly expensive and unethical.

Councils would rather not have to deal with some providers in the market but there aren’t enough alternatives. Others who have had enough and want to get out, struggle on because they are propped up with public money.

It’s time to reshape the market. Norfolk County Council spends around £1.25m on care every single day and would spend more if it was there. Time to use that influence to rationalise the market and provide more care directly or through NorseCare.

But reducing the wasteful spending and getting rip off merchants and poor performers off the stage doesn’t resolve the critical shortage of care staff.

It’s well known care staff can often earn more for less demanding work in supermarkets. Hardly surprising shortages are worse in areas of high demand where housing is expensive. If you can’t afford to live on your pay you switch jobs or move. 

Higher pay is great but if that pay is chasing ever higher housing costs you’re soon back to square one.

Norfolk Labour’s proposal helps solve that. Pension funds looking for large, ethical, stable, long term returns rather than a quick buck might be prepared to invest in residential property to lease to the council who could then rent them to care staff at rents they could afford, costing virtually no public money.

It’s happened elsewhere so why not Norfolk?

Key worker care housing in the right places gives pension funds what they need, care staff local homes for local workers and care providers a bigger pool of staff. More money in the local economy, fewer miles travelled so less traffic and emissions, and no right to buy so these homes stay available to pass on to rent.

Pension funds are investing in carers who provide care to those who often rely on their pensions. It is a perfect virtuous circle.

There’s lots of benefit in keeping people independent making use of tech and AI in the future of care. That has a lot of potential. Ultimately whether it’s residential care, domiciliary care, supported living or any other sort of care, people being cared for need people to care for them.

Labour in Norfolk proposes streamlining, cutting waste and duplication, making the market more ethical, and using creative solutions to attract staff into the proud profession of caring.

Then we can show any incoming government that when they provide the funding Norfolk needs to care for those who need support, we will spend it well and wisely.

Steve Morphew is Labour group leader at Norfolk County Council