Current accountability and oversight arrangements for adult social care are ‘ineffective’, according to an official watchdog.
A report out today by the National Audit Office (NAO) warns the Department of Health and Social Care ‘lacks visibility’ of how effectively local authorities commission care and the outcomes achieved.
It adds the Whitehall department has no legal powers to intervene or hold individual authorities to account, which limits its ability to assess how well money is being spent, or what additional funding is needed to support care users.
The report adds that the department has not met previous commitments to tackle recruitment and retention challenges for the 1.5m people who work in care.
And it has not produced a workforce strategy since 2009, despite committing to do so in 2018.
The highly-critical report adds the Whitehall department does not have a clear strategy to develop accommodation for adults with care needs and does not monitor the condition of current accommodation itself.
‘The lack of a long-term vision for adult social care coupled with ineffective oversight of the system means people may not get the care that best supports them,’ said NAO head, Gareth Davies.
‘The Department of Health and Social Care has increased its focus on adult social care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It needs to build on this to ensure that its long-awaited reforms deliver affordable, high quality and sustainable adult social care for the future.’
Responding to the report, Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said: ‘The issues highlighted in this report, from a reliance in short-term funding for councils to deliver care, a lack of a workforce strategy, and paucity of accommodation options all are a product of the failure of successive governments to produce a long-term plan to finance social care. The County Councils Network has long warned of a broken care market, with local authorities under significant financial pressure, which can only be addressed by financial reform of the system.
‘Coronavirus has understandably delayed the long-awaited social care green paper, but the impact the virus has had on the sector should provide government with the impetus for its publication as soon as possible this year.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Delivering a care system fit for the future is a top priority and we will bring forward proposals for social care reform later this year.
“We are providing councils with access to £1.5bn in additional funding for social care in 2021-22, on top of a further package of support worth £3bn to support local authorities and help address the additional pressures, including on adult social care, during the pandemic.’
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