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Urgent need to better fund and fix social care

Nine out of ten MPs say that local government does not have enough resource to meet the growing need for social care services and three in five believe that the social care budget should be raised by £7bn a year over the next two years. 

These are among the key findings of a poll of politicians from across the political spectrum carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Health for Care coalition which shows a broad consensus, driven by the tragedy of the pandemic, on the pressing need for widespread social care reform.

Health for Care, a coalition of 15 national health organisations, led by the NHS Confederation, warns that the social care system needs urgent and radical reform and significant investment and is calling on the government to rapidly deliver on its manifesto pledge to transform the struggling sector.

As the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak prepares to set out his budget tomorrow (March 3), the findings of a survey of nearly 100 MPs and more than 500 English councillors highlight the pressing need for a long-term funding strategy and swift transformation in social care.

They show strong support for a long-term financial and workforce plan for the sector and for a funding settlement of an additional £7bn a year by 2023- 2024, as recommended by the Health and Social Care Select Committee in October.

The survey revealed a strong political consensus on the need for adult social care reform in England which spans party divides and both national and local government.

The NHS Confederation said the Covid-19 pandemic has served to highlight once again the important interlinked relationship between health and social care, which has left both struggling to cope. Without a comprehensive and properly funded long-term plan for the sector this important infrastructure is in peril.

1.4m older people are currently estimated to have an unmet need for social care, yet despite this there have been dramatic falls in spending on social care in England, with figures showing a 12% per person over the decade to 2018/19.

The NHS Confederation said it is now imperative that the government lays out a new plan for social care, which addresses the complex problems it faces including severe underfunding, an overstretched and under-valued workforce, a fragile provider sector, extensive unmet need, a lack of clarity about the cost of care and a complex system to navigate.

Danny Mortimer, chair of the coalition and chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Decades of delay and inertia have left the social care system chronically underfunded and in desperate need of reform.

‘As we slowly and cautiously ease out of the Covid emergency we cannot delay this a moment longer. It is clear that the tragedy of Covid-19 has helped to cement a consensus in both parliament and local government that urgent action is needed to fix social care.

‘There is also clear cross-party support for additional resources for the sector and the need long term financial and workforce plan.

‘The NHS and social care work side by side, when one service does not work, the other suffers, and the pandemic has served to shine a stark light on how fragile and severely under-resourced the country’s social care system has become.

‘We are now calling on the government to commit to deliver both significant investment and concrete legislative proposals which give social care the future-facing reform it so badly needs.’

The NHS Confederation, on behalf of the Health for Care coalition, will publish a report setting out the full polling data findings later this week.

A government spokesperson said it has given local authorities access to an additional £1.5bn of funding for adult and children’s social care in 2020-21.

‘It’s crucial the care sector has the staff it needs both now and in the future, which is why we are currently running a national recruitment campaign, ‘Care for Others. Make a Difference’, to support providers to recruit into care roles.

‘Delivering a care system that is fit for the future remains a top priority and, following new measures set out in the Health and Care Bill White Paper, we will bring forward proposals for social care reform later this year.

‘That’s alongside the billions of additional funding we’ve provided to the sector, including over £1.4bn in specific funding for adult social care, free PPE and increased staff testing to help protect staff and residents throughout the pandemic.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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