A report by care specialists, Newton, argues that tens of thousands of adults who need care could live more independently if long-awaited care sector reforms give councils the ability to reshape services, rather than handing control over to the NHS.
However, the Independent Care Group (ICG) say the only way to achieve a seamless care system is to bring health and social care together under one umbrella.
The Future of Adult Social Care, commissioned by the County Councils Network, outlines new ways of working for local authorities, care providers and the NHS that it says could allow service users to live more independently and save £1.6bn per year by reducing care costs.
It says this could be achieved through a mix of interrelated improvements, including better long-term commissioning of residential and home care, as well as greater collaboration between councils, the NHS and care providers.
Newton also suggests investing in re-ablement services, maximising the use of the voluntary and community sector and embracing digital transformation.
However, the report warns that, in order for the model be delivered, services must remain under local democratic control and be given long-term funding as well as parity with the NHS.
Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said: ‘This year, we could finally see the government’s long-awaited proposals for reforming care services in England.
‘This must set out a long-term funding solution but also be clear over who is best placed to deliver services for the most vulnerable in our communities.
‘The evidence presented in this report is compelling: only councils, who know their populations and their providers, have the means to deliver improved social care services to keep people independent for longer.
‘Social care is best delivered as a local service and local authorities have the connection to their communities to truly transform local care for the better.
‘This report recognises that if the government finally delivers sustainable funding for councils, we can work with health partners and care providers to deliver improved commissioning and financial benefits which could be reinvested in local services.
‘In exchange for more funding and local decision making over services, a new co-designed performance framework could also help provide reassurance to the government that these improvements are being met.’
ICG chair Mike Padgham has backed calls for changes in the way social care is funded and delivered but says there is no question in his view that health and social care need to be run by a single body.
‘In the short-term, local authorities need greater funding to be able to better support the delivery of social care.
‘Some £8bn has been cut from social care budgets since 2010 and that has left the delivery of care in tatters. At least 1.4m people are not getting the care they need and that doesn’t reflect well on this country.
‘Looking ahead, there is no question in my view that NHS healthcare and social care need to be run by a single body. At the moment the system is splintered, with NHS care run nationally and social care run locally.
‘While the mantra has always been that bodies need to work together, in practice, especially with something like care, it doesn’t happen well enough.
‘Health and social care need to be brought together under one umbrella to achieve the one thing that we all want which is the best possible, seamless care system in this country. We need a Nye Bevan moment – let’s be both bold and radical.
‘And once they are merged, we need the other thing that health and social care have been crying out for, which is stability.’
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