Lords demand action on social care

4 Jul 19

An immediate £8bn funding package must be introduced to tackle a social care system “riddled with unfairness”, a lords committee has said.

This should be followed by the introduction of free personal care – funded through increased general taxation - over the next five years, the lords economic affairs committee has urged today. 

Lords on the committee also recommended replacing the six-times delayed social care green paper with a white paper “to avoid further delay”. 

The £8bn package could restore care quality and access to pre-austerity levels and would reduce the 1.4 million older people (14% of the population) who had unmet care needs in England in 2018. 

The committee noted that the level of unmet need has been caused by an increase in the number of older and working-age people requiring care while public funding declined by 13% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16. 

This, in turn, has pushed care responsibilities onto unpaid carers such as friends and families. 

Local authorities differ in respect of cost pressure they face and ability to raise funds leading to a postcode lottery, the report said. 

Lord Forsyth of Dumlean, chair of the committee, said: “The whole system is riddled with unfairness. Someone with dementia can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their care, while someone with cancer receives it for free.  

“Local authorities are increasingly expected to fund social care themselves, despite differences in local care demands and budgets. And local authorities can’t afford to pay care providers a fair price, forcing providers to choose whether to market to those people who fund their own care or risk going bankrupt.” 

The report said that higher funding for adult social care would allow greater investment in the care workforce. 

Lords suggested that a proposed move from 50% business rates retention to 75% would exacerbate funding problem because “demand for social care is often greatest in areas where business is least buoyant”. 

Eleanor Roy, CIPFA policy manager for health and social care, said: “The proposal to implement free personal care, similar to that in Scotland, may only partially alleviate demand in the long term and does little to address the unfairness in the current system.”

“A focus on long-term spending and preventative action in the context of the whole health and care system is required to maximise sustainability and value for money.

Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund think-tank, said: “Any kind of fundamental reform will require more money – but continuing to patch up the current, failing system would be also costly and would not tackle its fundamental flaws which impact on families every day. 

“Politicians must therefore be honest with the public about the shortcomings of the current system and the costs of reform.”  

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “The committee has ultimately underlined that doing nothing is no longer a viable option and that social care reform must be at the top of policy agenda for whoever next leads the country.” 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services. 

“We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future."

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