Urgent reform of UK adult social care funding needed

Policy experts at the University of Birmingham have warned that urgent reform of the funding of UK adult social care is needed to save a desperately overstretched system which has now reached breaking point.

A new report, published in the Journal of Social Policy, argues that the crisis is partly the result of a ‘lost decade’ in which policymakers systematically failed to act on alarms raised back in 2010. Led by Professor Jon Glasby, the researchers now say that without swift government intervention, the adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable.

The article draws on and updates a 2010 review of the reform and costs of adult social care – commissioned by Downing Street and the Department of Health – which concluded the system was widely recognised as ‘broken’ and that, with no action, the costs of adult social care could double within two decades.

The researchers say that not only were these warnings not heeded – but the situation has since got worse. Ambitious plans for a ‘National Care Service’ were not implemented, while the austerity agenda led to a decade of spending cuts, service pressures, and a growing sense of crisis. Predictably, the report claims that the result has been greater unmet/under-met need, more self-funding, lower quality care, a crisis among care providers, and much greater pressure on staff, families and partner agencies.

Glasby said: “Our research has explored the future reform and costs of adult social care, and the high cost of inaction. In 2010, we were adamant that doing nothing was not an option. Our 2020 update shows that, without swift government intervention, the adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable. Even though this research was carried out before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, urgent action is likely to be even more pressing in the current context.”