The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee has said that the adult social care sector urgently needs a long-term plan and additional funding. The cross-party committee compiled a report to outline the needs of the sector and found that, although the government had a vision, it had failed to address the many unmet needs. The pandemic exacerbated issues surrounding staffing problems on a backdrop of rising demand. National Minimum and National Living Wage increases together with escalating inflation have further worsened the situation.
The LUHC’s inquiry into adult social care funding brought to light a severe lack of resources, with the committing pointing out that the social care sector “does not have enough funding either in the here and now, or in the longer term”. It called the £25 million pledge to support care staff “totally inadequate”.
Accusing the government of having “nothing more than a vision, with no roadmap, no timetable, no milestones, and no measures of success”, the committee’s report outlines the need for immediate action:
“The Government should come forward with 10-year plans for how it will achieve its vision outlined in the People at the Heart of Care White Paper and for the adult social care workforce.
“The Government should provide a multi-year funding settlement to give local authorities what they need in terms of their own sustainability and their ability to help shape sustainable local care markets.”
Clive Betts, committee chairman, said that although the government “deserves credit” much more is needed to address the social care sector crisis:
“Ultimately, whether it relates to immediate cost pressures or on wider structural issues in the sector, the fundamental problem is that there continues to be a large funding gap in adult social care which needs filling.
“Those who need care, their loved ones, and care workers deserve better.”
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, David Fothergill, said:
“Evidence from across the sector shows the current crisis in workforce capacity, waiting times and strained council budgets.”
Other charities including Age UK said that the committee had at least admitted that the social care sector is “grotesquely under-resourced in terms of people and money”.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director said:
“The consequences are deeply damaging for them and for the rest of us too, with older people becoming sicker more quickly, unpaid carers being forced to give up work to support the person they love, and disabled people who could work and live rich and fulfilling lives stuck within their own four walls – all amounting to a terrible waste of human and economic potential and piling extra strain on the NHS.”
Public service union, Unison, blame inadequate sick pay and low wages for staff shortages
In reaction to the report, Unison has blamed inadequate sick pay and low wages for forcing staff to quit and seek employment in better-paid sectors. Donna Rowe-Merriman, the union’s head of business and community said that “the buck stops with government” and that “only ministers can solve the crisis in social care”.
She urged the government to make “a proper pay rise across the entire care sector” a top priority while also demanding the government ban “profiteering, bring in proper regulation, and create a national care service” to “help improve staffing levels and the quality and availability of care, lessening the pressure on an overwhelmed NHS.”
Funding shortfalls existed long before the pandemic
While Covid may have deepened the social care sector crisis, a Sky News investigation highlighted a funding shortage dating back to the decade in the run-up to 2020. NHS Digital data showed that more than half of all local authorities spent less per person between 2010 and 2020 than before. In London, 90 per cent of local authorities had to deal with spending cuts.
The funding shortfalls have meant that care workers who would normally work to improve the quality of the lives of vulnerable people have instead been delivering life-saving interventions. This has created significant gaps and put additional strain on the NHS.
Since 2016, the costs of providing social care have risen by more than 25 per cent. At the same time, England alone has seen a 5.6 per cent rise in the number of new requests for support.
After the publication of the report, a government spokesperson said:
“We are already taking decisive action to reduce pressures on the system which includes investing an extra £5.4 billion in adult social care over the next three years to end unpredictable costs and support those working in the sector.
“This year, we have made available £3.7 billion of additional funding to local authorities, which they can spend on adult social care.
“We are also delivering on our ambitious 10-year vision for adult social care, which provides detail on the measures to implement over the next three years to reform the sector and deliver for people.”