MPs warn that England’s ‘ravaged’ social care sector needs urgent cash injection 

The cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities committee has published its report today on the long-term funding of adult social care. Unsurprisingly to those working in the sector, it has revealed that the adult social care system is in desperate need of a sustained multi-year funding settlement, and that planned reforms must be carefully mapped out with real consideration for those using and working within the system.

The committee commented that the £25m pledged by ministers over three years to support carers is “totally inadequate” and the money set aside from the new national insurance levy “won’t touch the sides”, going on to describe the country’s care system as “ravaged” and in need of a financial injection and a long-term plan to meet immediate cost pressures.

Following an inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care, the report stated that the sector “does not have enough funding either in the here and now or in the longer term”.

The committee also suggested that the government has “nothing more than a vision” for tackling the challenges of rising demand and difficulties in recruiting and keeping staff.

According to committee chairman Clive Betts, the government has only “come close” to helping with the social care crisis, warning that more needs to be urgently done to revive the sector.

“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,” Betts added.

“Those who need care, their loved ones, and care workers deserve better. The NHS and adult social care providers 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 billion each year.”

The County Councils Network responded that it is “absolutely vital” that the government act on advice and asked for ministers to go further, “delaying the implementation of social care reforms beyond October 2023 so that councils are given more time and resources to ensure the reforms are implemented successfully”.

Over half of local authorities suffered a fall in per person spending in the years since 2020, according to the data from NHS Digital, with numbers even starker in London, where almost nine in ten local authorities experienced a funding cut.

Access Social Care chief executive Kari Gerstheimer echoed the report, urging that recommendations made regarding the adult social care sector must be designed to benefit the real people behind Westminster figures, namely “those who need care, their loved ones, and care workers”. 

“Some of the distressing figures outlined today by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee show little concern for those at the front line of our social care system and a disregard for the very real issues faced by local authorities,” she added.

“Whilst I recognise the efforts made to attempt reforms, I am in full agreement with the committee statement that: ‘the government currently has nothing more than a vision, with no roadmap, no timetable, no milestones, and no measures of success’. The sector is in desperate need of more information as to both how reforms will be financed, and in light of a leadership battle fuelled on pledging tax cuts, where this extra £7 billion of vital funding will come from. 

Gerstheimer added that she is especially concerned about research commissioned by the County Council Network – which estimates that reforms lead to an additional 200,000 social care assessments, requiring 4,300 and 700 more social workers and financial assessors respectively: “My concerns are not lessened by the government suggestion to explore care home, mixed team, and self-assessments, particularly given the existent quality issues surrounding current care assessments. 

“Real and calculated steps need to be taken to ensure that everyone has access to a fair cost of care. Those of us working in the care sector have repeatedly called on the government to outline how the revenue from the Health and Social Care levy will be divided to fund charging and sector reforms. Also, we have stressed that money is needed to address the short-term ‘structural challenges of rising demand, unmet need, and difficulties recruiting and retaining staff’. These concerns are only exacerbated by the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation – the consequence being that millions of people are going without the care they so desperately need.

“This report is clear in its indication that unrealistic demands are being put on local authorities, and there needs to be a rebalance of resources so as they are less reliant on raising revenue through council tax. It also highlights that the NHS and adult social care should not be pit 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 it is paramount that the Government produces a plan to allocate more funding to adult social care, to the tune of several billions of pounds per year.” 

Prof Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, commented that the report echoed his organisations’ repeated calls that significantly more central funding is required immediately for adult social care to meet the widely reported immediate and longer-term financial pressures facing the sector.

“While this government pledged to ‘fix’ social care, it is clear that in reality, this is far from having been achieved. Against a backdrop of increasing workforce pressures, inflation, and a cost-of-living crisis, the sector finds itself in a more precarious position than ever before. The recommendations of this report represent the latest in a raft of publications which demonstrates that without intervention, adult social care providers will not be able to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable.”

Date Published: August 4, 2022