MPs say social care needs immediate funding boost

by Seamus Ward

04 August 2022

Adult social care does not have enough funding in the short and long term, and must get an immediate injection of ‘several billions’ to meet current pressures, MPs have said.

clive.betts l (UK Parliament)In a report, the Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee said ‘the message rang clear throughout our inquiry: the adult social care sector does not have enough funding either in the here-and-now, or in the longer term’. The services were facing rising inflation and pressure from unmet care needs, it added.

It made a number of recommendations, such as giving local government a multi-year settlement to ensure they remained financially sustainable and the sustainability of the local care markets.

Adult social care does not have a strategy, a road map with milestones and measures of success, the report said. The government should publish a series of 10-year plans on how it aims to achieve the ambitions set out in its People at the heart of care white paper. The white paper set out reforms to the way people in England pay for their care, as well as measures on choice and control, and quality and safety.

The measures would be funded from the new health and social care levy, though initially most of the funding raised will be allocated to the NHS.

The committee said a 10-year workforce plan should include a clear roadmap with core milestones, outcomes, and measures of success. And an assessment of the new burdens the government’s reforms will place on local authorities would help councils to assess their staff requirements and resources needed to deliver the full package of adult social care reforms.

Committee chair Clive Betts (pictured) said the government deserved some credit for attempting reform, and aiming to prevent ‘the unpredictable and catastrophic costs that can be inflicted on people for their care'. But he insisted there was much more to do.

‘Ultimately, whether it relates to immediate cost pressures or on wider structural issues in the sector, the fundamental problem is that there continues to be a large funding gap in adult social care which needs filling. Those who need care, their loved ones, and care workers deserve better,’ he said.

‘The NHS and adult social care provision should not be pitted against one another. The two systems are interdependent and each needs to be adequately funded to reduce pressure on the other. Wherever the money comes from – from allocating a higher proportion of levy proceeds to social care, or from central government grants – the government urgently needs to allocate more funding to adult social care in the order of several billions each year.’

Natasha Curry, Nuffield Trust deputy director of policy, said the new prime minister should be under no illusion that social care is now fixed.

‘The white paper currently amounts to little more than an aspiration. MPs are right to be concerned about the lack of a comprehensive plan that addresses deep-rooted problems across the sector. Urgent action is needed to tackle workforce shortages, instability in the provider market, as well as shoring up the shaky financial foundations that the current plans for reform sit on.’

She continued: ‘A shortage of workers across the social care sector is the biggest worry for providers of care. There is a desperate need for a realistic workforce strategy that goes beyond a wish list and puts pay for all social care staff on a competitive footing, which adequately rewards qualifications, responsibilities, and experience.’