Lords warns government to act now on social care

The Economic Affairs Committee recommends the government spend at least £8 billion to restore social care to acceptable standards and then introduce free personal care over the following five years.

The new report, Social care funding: time to end a national scandal, finds that publicly funded social care support is shrinking, as diminishing budgets have forced local authorities to limit the numbers of people who receive public funding. Funding is £700 million lower than 2010/11 in real terms, despite continuing increases in the numbers of people who need care, while more than 400,000 people have fallen out of the means test, which has not increased with inflation since 2010.

Reflecting findings from the Health Foundation and King's Fund, which estimate that to return quality and access to levels observed in 2009/10, the government would need to spend £8 billion, the committee says that this must be a top priority for the government.

The Economic Affairs Committee also suggests that the government should introduce a basic entitlement to publicly funded personal care for individuals with substantial and critical levels of need, again using the Health Foundation and the King's Fund estimate that this would cost £7 billion if introduced in 2020/21. To avoid catastrophic accommodation costs, the report says that the government should also explore a cap on accommodation costs.

The Lords’ report also states that free personal care should be available universally by 2025/26.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chairman of the committee, said: "Social care is severely underfunded. More than a million adults who need social care aren't receiving it, family and friends are being put under greater pressure to provide unpaid care, and the care workforce continues to be underpaid and undervalued.

"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. Social care funding has decreased most in the most deprived areas. 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.

"Fixing underfunding is not difficult. The government needs to spend £8 billion now to return quality and access in the system to an acceptable standard. Fixing unfairness is more complicated, but the Government has ducked the question for too long. They need to publish a White Paper, not a Green Paper, with clear proposals for change now. We think that change should include the introduction of free personal care, ensuring those with critical needs can receive help with essential daily activities like washing, dressing and cooking.

"Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority. By 2023/24, the NHS funding will have increased by £20.5 billion per year. This is more than the entirety of local authority adult social care expenditure."

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