The adult social care sector has respondrd to the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on social care funding and the workforce.
A cross-party group of MPs have called for an urgent multibillion-pound injection into England’s social care system to address escalating levels of need among older and disabled people and to improve pay and skills for care workers.
The health and social care select committee said ministers should invest at least £7bn a year in the care sector by 2023-24, though it said this was only a “starting point” and that it would not address unmet care needs nor improve access to care.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This helpful report reinforces our calls for a long-term, sustainable funding solution for adult social care, as well as funding to deal with immediate pressures facing the system that existed before coronavirus and which have been exacerbated by it.
“Significant investment is urgently needed now just to meet existing needs and keep services going, as this report highlights, as well as consider how to make the system fairer including how we pay for it.
“We need cross-party agreement on the future of adult social care which addresses all these issues, such as on unmet need and care staff pay.
“The upcoming Spending Review must provide councils with the extra funding they need to help shore up social care ahead of winter and get through the second wave of COVID-19, deal with the existing challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, while also using this funding for a ‘down-payment on reform’ to place social care on a long-term, sustainable footing.”
Nick Sanderson, Audley Group, CEO commented: “An extra £7 billion per year for the adult social care system is yet another recommendation that puts money ahead of fundamental change. The social care system is incredibly fragile and as well as additional investment, it is in desperate need of fundamental reform. The Health and Social Care Committee recommends the publication of a 10 year plan for social care. Ten years? We can’t wait for the government to spend even months putting this together. The pandemic has exposed just the tip of an iceberg and if any positives can come out of a very difficult year for the social care sector, it is that real reform starts now.
“The solution has to bring together care and housing as one. Many issues faced in the social care system result from people are living in unsuitable housing, particularly as they age and this places intolerable pressure on the NHS and social care systems. People are pushed into the care sector long before they need to be there. We must effect change from the ground up, increasing provision of the type of housing that is suitable for people as they get older, and as such takes the pressure off hospitals and residential care. This is why, with ARCO, we are calling on the government to create a task force to tackle the obstacles holding back the growth of the retirement living market. The sector is ready to play its part and the government must be too.”
Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, says: “We concur with the Health and Social Care Committee’s assertion that action needs to be taken now, we simply cannot afford to wait. The sector needs support and one tangible way to provide this is via a ten year plan for adult social care. This plan must be carefully aligned with the NHS and I hope that the Committee will monitor progress as it must not sit on a shelf and gather dust or we will be face with a vastly depleted social care sector with huge repercussions for the nation.”
Martin Green gave oral evidence to the Committee’s inquiry and supports the Committee’s conclusion that £7 billion is needed as an immediate headline figure for social care, but that more would be needed to address the growing problem of unmet need and improve access to care. Another recommendation is action to improve the pay and recognition given to social care workers, establishing a clear career path that is more effectively aligned with the NHS.
Professor Green continues: “The report addresses the short, medium and long term requirements. It is heartening that after so long in the wilderness the sector is being listened to and we hope that this report will be the turning point that we so desperately need”.
Time to stop the broken record and start facing the music on social care reform
Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “We welcome this call for increased funding for social care. However, calls for cash have been made plenty of times before, and it is long past time to stop the broken record and start facing the music. The Government must urgently provide the funding the sector needs, to avoid leaving hundreds of thousands of people without care and keep those who look after them in work.
“Like the NHS, social care faces a huge workforce shortage, with the latest estimates from Skills for Care putting vacancy levels at more than 110,000. To fill some of those vacancies, it’s vital that care work is remunerated in line with the life-changing benefit it provides to those who receive it. As the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated, social care has been treated as a second-class service for far too long, without adequate pay or recognition for the vital role of its workers, and this is truly shameful. It is high time it was given the esteem it deserves so that we can avoid another tragedy like the one we witnessed as the pandemic first began to take hold.
“We are also glad to see that the problem of unmet need and access to care has been recognised, and the acknowledgement that the additional £7 billion a year would only be a starting point. We have said time and again that the sector needs a long-term settlement and a long-term plan, just like the NHS, and we hope this report will provide the impetus so desperately needed to make that happen.”