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‘Ravaged’ social care sector needs more money before year is out – MPs

Adult social care sector urgently needs more money, say MPs (Alamy/PA)
Adult social care sector urgently needs more money, say MPs (Alamy/PA)

England’s “ravaged” adult social care sector urgently needs more money from Government before the year is out, MPs have warned.

A cash injection and a long-term plan is needed to help the sector meet immediate cost pressures and become sustainable over the coming years, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee said.

The cross-party committee said the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated underlying challenges of rising demand, unmet need and difficulties in recruiting and keeping staff.

Rising inflation and increases in the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage are also adding pressure.

The committee, which held an inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care, said the “message rang clear” that adult social care “does not have enough funding either in the here and now, or in the longer term”.

It said the Government has “nothing more than a vision” for social care currently, with no timetable or measures of progress.

Money allocated to social care from the new national insurance levy “won’t touch the sides”, the committee was told.

And it said it believes £25 million pledged over three years for initiatives to support carers is “totally inadequate” and will do little to assure them their contribution is valued.

Committee chairman Clive Betts said the Government “deserves credit” for attempting reform but that the Government has only “come close” to rescuing social care, with a long way to go.

He said: “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.

“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.”

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “To meet current unmet and under-met need within social care funding is urgently needed.

“Evidence from across the sector shows the current crisis in workforce capacity, waiting times and strained council budgets.”

Age UK said the committee has recognised, in not so many words, that social care is “grotesquely under resourced in terms of people and money”.

Charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “At the moment millions of our fellow citizens are living diminished lives because the reliable, high quality care services they need just aren’t there for them.

“The consequences are deeply damaging for them and for the rest of us too, with older people becoming sicker more quickly, unpaid carers being forced to give up work to support the person they love, and disabled people who could work and live rich and fulfilling lives stuck within their own four walls – all amounting to a terrible waste of human and economic potential and piling extra strain on the NHS.”

Unison head of business and community, Donna Rowe-Merriman, said: “Poverty of ambition and lack of will lie at the heart of their planned but rather limited reforms.

“The urgent priority must be a proper pay rise across the entire care sector. Low wages and inadequate sick pay explain why thousands of staff are quitting for better paid jobs elsewhere.”

A Government spokesman said: “We are already taking decisive action to reduce pressures on the system which includes investing an extra £5.4 billion in adult social care over the next three years to end unpredictable costs and support those working in the sector.

“This year, we have made available £3.7 billion of additional funding to local authorities, which they can spend on adult social care.

“We are also delivering on our ambitious 10-year vision for adult social care, which provides detail on the measures to implement over the next three years to reform the sector and deliver for people.”