MPs call for urgent £7bn annual increase in social care funding as starting point for reform
The Health and Social Care Committee has published a new report exploring the reforms needed to the system of funding social care and the level of extra funding required from government in order to relieve current pressures on the NHS and on people who need social care.
‘Social Care: Funding and Workforce’ examines shortages in the social care workforce and what solutions need to be found to address changes in the future.
Initially paused in March to allow the Committee to focus on the crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the inquiry reopened in May.
From the inquiry, MPs are now calling for a £7 billion annual increase in social care funding as a starting point for reform, stating that doing nothing is ‘no longer an option’.
The Committee also says that the social care sector needs a 10-year plan like the NHS to address wider issues.
In response to its harrowing findings, the Health and Social Care Committee is crying out for urgent and sustained investment in social care to resolve the funding crisis, exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to report, the £7 billion figure is just a starting point and would not address the growing problem of unmet need nor improve access to care. The Committee estimates that the full cost of adequate funding will likely be around tens of billions of pounds.
Although the report recognises that these substantial increases come at a time of severe financial pressure, it says that the unsustainable social care funding crisis warrants this response.
The report backs the introduction of a lifetime cap to protect against catastrophic care costs as originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission and endorses further consideration of free personal care.
MPs say the current means-tested system is unfair, confusing, demeaning and “frightening for the most vulnerable people in our society, and their families”.
Now, the Health and Social Care Committee says that action must be taken by the UK Government to improve the pay and recognition given to social care workers, establishing a clear career path that is more effectively aligned with the NHS.
Furthermore, it says that transitional arrangements must be put in place to ensure the recruitment of social care workers from overseas for as long as is necessary.
Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP said: “The pandemic has held up in lights the brilliant and brave work done by the social care workforce – but the real thank you they want is not a weekly clap but a long term plan for the crisis in their sector.
“In this report we look at one element of that, namely the funding pressures, and conclude that the government must use the spending review to raise the annual adult social care budget by £7bn by the end of the parliament as the starting point for a wider series of reforms. Whilst that is a significant sum, it would not increase access or quality of care.
“However it would meet demographic and wage pressures as well as meet the catastrophic care costs faced by people with dementia or other neurological conditions. To address wider issues the sector needs a 10-year plan and a people plan just like the NHS. Without such a plan, words about parity of esteem will be hollow. We owe it to both the staff and families devastated by loss to make this a moment of real change.”
Unlike the NHS, social care is not free at the point of use, the report notes. Anyone with assets— including in some cases their home—worth more than £14,250 has to pay for their own social care. However, local authorities fund social care for people with assets below this threshold.
Whilst successive governments have attempted to address local authorities’ need for more funding for social care through a range of short-term grants and funding mechanisms, there has been no long-term funding solution for social care.
The report emphasises that whilst there is now more funding available for social care, the demand for services has grown at the same time, with statistics from the Health Foundation revealing that spending per person on adult social care services has fallen in real terms by around 12 percent between 2010–11 and 2018–19.
Furthermore, the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry found that local authorities have been trying to limit how much they pay for services, but providers have been adversely affected by increasing costs, especially for staff as a result of the minimum wage.
“The result is an increasingly unstable market with growing numbers of providers going out of business or handing back contracts,” the report states. “In addition, some providers are focusing on services for people who fund their own care, and who will pay more. Care providers closing, or closing to local authority residents has a direct impact on those needing care, reducing choice, and in the most extreme cases forcing service users to move to a different care home.”
The report also highlights the issue of local authorities not receiving long-term funding, which they say prevents them from commissioning effectively and shaping the care market.
Considering these issues, the Health and Social Care Committee is calling for an immediate funding increase from the UK Government to avoid risk of social care market collapse caused by providers withdrawing from offering services to council-funded clients and focusing solely on the private market.
Responding to the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s social care funding and workforce report, ADASS President James Bullion commented: “This report draws on an array of expert views including Anna Severwright, Daphne Havercroft, Anita Charlesworth, Oonagh Smyth, Jane Townsend, Sir Andrew Dilnot, Lord Forsyth and colleagues from ADASS and the Local Government Association to offer a detailed but succinct distillation of the irresistible case for fundamental reform and sustained investment in care and support for working-age disabled people, older people, and carers. It makes clear that immediate action is needed and leads us to ask: if not now, when?
“The Government must use the Spending Review to ensure continuity of care and support and to create the space for a public conversation about the type of care we all want for ourselves and our families now and in the future.”