Billions must be spent “immediately” to restore the quality of and access to adult social care in England to acceptable levels, according to a House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report.
Peers have called on the government to spend an extra £8 billion on fixing an “underfunded” social care system in which 1.4 million people aren’t receiving the care they need and the workforce is “underpaid and undervalued”.
The report, published today, also urges ministers to introduce free personal care, funded through general taxation, over a period of five years.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, said: “The whole system is riddled with unfairness. Someone with dementia can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their care, while someone with cancer receives it for free.
“Local authorities are increasingly expected to fund social care themselves, despite differences in local care demands and budgets. The reduction in social care funding has been greatest in the most deprived areas. And local authorities can’t afford to pay care providers a fair price, forcing providers to choose whether to market to those people who fund their own care or risk going bankrupt.”
The report notes that while fixing an unfair system may be complicated, the government has “ducked the question for too long” and it needs to publish a “White Paper, not a Green Paper”, with clear proposals for change.
The Committee found that annual funding is down £700 million in real terms compared to 2010/11, despite continuing increases in the numbers of people who need care.
The Health Foundation and King’s Fund estimate that to return quality and access to levels observed in 2009/10, the government would need to spend £8 billion.
“Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority. By 2023/24, the NHS funding will have increased by £20.5 billion per year. This is more than the entirety of local authority adult social care expenditure,” said Lord Forsyth.
To address unfairness in the system, the Committee proposes bringing in the entitlement for social care closer to the NHS by introducing free personal care, such as help with washing, dressing or cooking.
Peers said this move could reduce demand for residential care and health care by encouraging people to seek domiciliary care earlier, as they would not have to pay for accommodation costs.
This model would cost £7 billion per year according to the Health Foundation and the King’s Fund.
Additional funding for social care should come from national government, which should raise the money largely from general taxation, the Committee said.
Commenting on the report, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “With yet another report calling for a significant spending boost for social care, the government must listen and get a grip.
“But it is not just about funding. We also have to be able to find workers prepared to take on the challenge of delivering complex care when they could earn more stacking supermarket shelves.
“A long-awaited green paper has now been delayed six times, despite the ongoing crisis in the sector. Action is needed now before the situation gets any worse.”