The nation’s struggling social care system needs an urgent cash injection of £7bn ‘as a starting point’, MPs have warned.
A report by the health and social care select committee published today (22 October) warns that figure is need by 2023–24 to cover demographic changes, keep staff pay in line and to protect people who face ‘catastrophic social care costs’.
But it also states that a £7bn budget increase will ‘not provide any improvement in access to care’.
‘The full cost of adequately funding social care is therefore likely to be substantially higher than £7bn, potentially running to tens of billions of pounds,’ the report states.
It also backs the introduction of a lifetime cap to protect against catastrophic care costs, as originally proposed by the Dilnot Commission and endorses further consideration of free personal care.
It describes the current means-tested system is described as unfair, confusing, demeaning and ‘rightening for the most vulnerable people in our society, and their families’.
It says that action must be taken to improve the pay and recognition given to social care workers, establishing a clear career path that is more effectively aligned with the NHS.
And the report says transitional arrangements must be put in place to ensure the recruitment of social care workers from overseas for as long as is necessary.
‘In this report we look at one element of that, namely the funding pressures, and conclude that the government must use the spending review to raise the annual adult social care budget by £7bn by the end of the parliament as the starting point for a wider series of reforms,’ said committee chair, Jeremy Hunt.
‘Whilst that is a significant sum, it would not increase access or quality of care.
‘However, it would meet demographic and wage pressures as well as meet the catastrophic care costs faced by people with dementia or other neurological conditions.
‘To address wider issues the sector needs a 10-year plan and a people plan just like the NHS. Without such a plan, words about parity of esteem will be hollow. We owe it to both the staff and families devastated by loss to make this a moment of real change,’ added Mr Hunt.
Commenting on the report, Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said calls for cash have been made plenty of times before, and ‘it is long past time to stop the broken record and start facing the music’.
‘The government must urgently provide the funding the sector needs, to avoid leaving hundreds of thousands of people without care and keep those who look after them in work,’ added Mr Ville.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We recognise the challenges facing social care and we are doing everything we can to support the sector during the pandemic including through regular testing of staff and residents, free PPE and over £1.1 billion through the Infection Control Fund.
‘We remain absolutely committed to ensuring everybody is treated with dignity, and nobody has to sell their home to pay for care.
‘We know there is a need for a long-term solution for social care and are looking at a range of proposals as part of our commitment to bringing forward a plan that puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future.’
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