Only 1 in 10 MPs in England (10%) believe that the current social care system is suitable for the UK’s ageing population. And 86% of MPs in England believe a cross-party consensus is needed for a lasting settlement on health and social care. That’s according to a new poll of 101 MPs of all parties representing constituencies in England commissioned by Independent Age, the older people’s charity.
Ahead of the return of MPs to Parliament next week, the new poll by ComRes finds there are strong majorities across both major parties who believe funding for social care is inadequate, with only 1 in 5 Conservative MPs in England agreeing there is sufficient funding for social care services in either their constituency (21%) or in the UK (21%). Less than 1 in 10 Labour MPs in England say they agree that there is sufficient funding for social care services in either their constituency (8%) or in the UK (7%).
MPs in England also expressed significant concerns about the current state of social care in their constituencies only months after social care featured as a leading concern for voters in the snap General Election. Only 13% of Labour MPs in England and 35% of Conservative MPs in England believe that social care services in their constituencies are fit for purpose. There was even less confidence in social care services across the UK, with only 8% of Labour MPs in England and 22% of Conservative MPs in England believing they are fit for purpose.
Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity, said:
“Confidence that the social care system can deal with the UK’s ageing population has virtually evaporated among Parliamentarians. The crisis in social care was front and centre in the election earlier this year, and it is clear from this poll that there is an overwhelming desire from politicians on all sides for the Government to work towards a cross-party consensus on a solution.
“The problems in social care are about more than simply finding new bits of money to pump into a system that isn’t fit for purpose. To meet current and future demand, we need to take a radically different approach, recognising the status quo has failed. The Government has promised a consultation on social care, but to work this must set out a long-term vision for health and care that has support from across the political divide. It must also lead to a lasting settlement that better integrates health and social care services and is sustainable over the years to come.”
The survey also highlighted overwhelming support for a cross-party solution on health and social care. Conservative (84%) and Labour (88%) MPs almost equally agree that a cross-party consensus is required.
This lack of confidence in the current system and desire for a cross-party approach for a solution highlights the scale of the problem that the Government has promised to address through a Green Paper on social care, although worryingly the timetable for the publication of this and its scope remains unclear. In January, Independent Age led a group of 75 organisations and expert voices to call on the Prime Minister to take a cross-party approach to review and recommend action on future health and social care funding.
Norman Lamb MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health, and Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, has been a vocal proponent of a cross-party approach to finding a long-term solution on social care, and met with the Prime Minister to discuss the issue earlier in the year. The Liberal Democrat manifesto at the 2017 General Election set out a plan to establish a cross-party health and social care convention which would carry out a comprehensive review of the longer-term sustainability of health and social care services. Reacting to this new survey, Norman Lamb MP said:
“The health and care system in England is creaking at the seams. An unprecedented number of older people need support in later life but are finding high-quality care is hard to come by. Patients are suffering from longer waiting times in the NHS, while there is evidence that the rationing of treatment is becoming more commonplace.
“The Government simply cannot afford to put off finding solutions to these problems. Without lasting reform, the most vulnerable frail and elderly people are at real risk of falling through the gaps and not getting the support they expect and deserve. While ministers have promised a green paper on the future of social care, this falls short of the fundamental review of the entire health and care system that we desperately need.
“That’s why I have been working with Independent Age and a coalition of healthcare organisations to urge the Government to work with MPs from all parties, experts from across the sector, and with older people and their families to help build a sustainable health and social care system that ensures everybody can get the treatment and support that they need.”
Responding to the report, Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said:
“This telling report reflects long standing concerns about developing a national debate to secure a long-term, sustainable funding solution for adult social care. This is a national priority. It is also a priority for working age disabled adults.
“Despite most adult social care services in England providing people with safe, high quality and compassionate care – in the context of rising levels and complexity of need and inadequate funding – adult social care remains at a tipping point. This affects older and disabled people and their families, care workers, care markets and the NHS.
“Older and disabled people and their families need and deserve high quality, reliable and personal care for their increasingly complex needs. For this to happen, and with MPs returning to Parliament next week, government needs to address adult social care as a priority so it can be future-proofed for people who will continue to need care and support in increasing numbers.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“It is encouraging to see so many MPs across all political parties recognising the need for action to find a sustainable solution to the adult social care funding crisis.
“The extra £2 billion for social care over the next few years is a step in the right direction, but it is only one-off funding which reduces each year. Vital services caring for elderly and disabled people still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020, which will continue to grow.
“It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its Green Paper on the future of social care and works with local government leaders to address the issue of long-term funding and also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services.
“We strongly support a cross-party consensus on adult social care and councils are firmly committed to making this happen.
“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade and beyond, this is the best way to ensure we will find a solution that ensures our future generations enjoy a care system which doesn’t just help them out of bed and gets them washed and dressed but ensures they have dignified and fulfilling lives.”