Government must act to stabilise and reform adult social care

The Health Foundation has stressed that the new government must urgently act to stabilise and reform adult social care in England if it is to avoid growing numbers of older and disabled people being unable to access the care they need.

The health charity has published new analysis setting out the priorities for reform and what it would cost to establish a fairer, more comprehensive system. IT argues that the social care system is currently failing on three fronts: care providers are finding it increasingly difficult to provide services at the cost paid by English local authorities; the system leaves large numbers of people struggling without the care they need; and the system leaves people fearful of the costs they may face in the future.

The analysis claims it would cost the government an additional £7.5 billion a year by 2023/24 to address the worst aspects of the crisis. This money comprises an additional £4.4 billion to stabilise the current system, including growing staff pay in line with the NHS and meeting future demand pressures. A further £3.1 billion is required to remove the fear of catastrophic care costs and the loss of people’s homes and other assets, by capping individuals’ costs at £46,000 over their lifetime.

The £7.5 billion in additional funding represents the ‘bare minimum’, with the Health Foundation urging the government to go further and increase eligibility and access to social care.

The charity therefore sets out five priorities for the new government for social care: to stabilise the current social care system; to protect individuals against unfair and catastrophic care costs; to increase eligibility and access to social care; to see the capped cost model as a flexible approach to reform. The principle of a cap on care costs was included in the 2014 Care Act and could be put in place without new legislation; and to explore a range of options for raising revenue.

Charles Tallack, author of the report, said: “The current social care system in England is a shameful policy failure which is compounding the suffering of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The number of people unable to get the care they need for things like washing and dressing is increasing; care providers are going out of business and, faced with the possibility of catastrophic costs, many people are fearful of the future.

“The new government must start addressing this systematic failure by stabilising the market, boosting staff pay and putting in place reforms that limit the costs for those most in need. This would be a welcome start but we urge the government to go further and expand access to state-funded care by reducing the threshold at which people are eligible for care. Successive governments have ducked the need for reform for too long, but a solution is within reach. An additional £7.5 billion by 2023/24 is relatively affordable, representing less than one percent of total government spending. By taking advantage of policies already on the statute books, the government can act quickly and create a system that is fit for the future.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for Social Care and Mental Health, said: “This is an important reminder to the Prime Minister of the scale of the crisis facing social care. After nine years of cuts to council budgets, £7.7 billion has been taken out of social care, leaving services at breaking point.

“The Tories’ shameful inaction on social care is forcing councils to make difficult decisions about who can receive care, and too many people are left to cope without the support they badly need. Social care needs substantial investment. Labour has pledged £8 billion of additional funding to ease the pressures on the system, and we will build a National Care Service to secure the future of social care for the long term.”

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