MPs accuse governments of “decades of neglect” in social care

An influential cross-party group of MPs has accused ministers of “decades of neglect” of the social care sector and called for a “long-term funding plan that allows local authorities and providers to innovate and improve services”.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Commons says that governments of all political persuasions have promised social care reform for the past 20 years but “reform has not occurred”.

The PAC says the current system “does not work for local authorities or those paying for their own care”. Funding cuts have meant most local authorities pay providers below the costs of care and providers live “hand to mouth”, unable to take the long-term decisions which would improve services.

The committee also calls for a social care workforce strategy to “tackle low pay, improve career development and tackle unacceptably high turnover. Care workers suffer greatly from a lack of parity with the NHS in terms of pay, conditions and status.”

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “Carers, younger and older adults needing care, and home care have seen decades of neglect, and the 1.5 million who work in care deserve much better. The reforms to address this now must include a long-term funding plan that allows local authorities and providers to innovate and improve services. We cannot afford more broken commitments on care.”

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF), said the current situation in social care was “not sustainable”.

“The Committee recognises the impact of funding cuts and how that results in authorities paying below the cost of care. This is not sustainable and the medium-term response to date has involved short-term sticking plasters which have done enough to steady the ship, but not to stop the water rising.

“The Report brings to the fore the very real challenges of cross subsidy arrangements within care, determining that those who pay for their care often do so at a price that is much higher than that which any local authority will pay.”

But Rayner added that the PAC did not address the issue of cross subsidy, where self-pay residents pay more to cover the short-fall in revenue from local authority funded residents.

“…they should be arguing for a fair price for care – one where everyone pays the same – whether they have their care paid for by the local authority or they pay themselves. NCF have called for this in our Reform Agenda, as we agree with the Committee that the costs of care should be transparent, but at the same time, they must be paid for. It is absolutely not acceptable for any government or local authority to countenance the position outlined by the Committee where it states that ‘most local authorities pay providers below the cost of care’.

Date Published: June 16, 2021