Care sector ‘can’t afford more broken promises’, committee warns

Care Sourcer pic 1 cropped

Care leaders have welcomed a new report that calls for urgent reform of the system after “20 years of broken promises”.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in its report, published today, that the pandemic’s “devastating impact on the care sector” has emphasised that “care is not properly funded, lacks transparency and urgently needs reform”.

It said that governments of all political persuasions have promised social care reform in the form of white papers, green papers and independent reviews over the past 20 years, but these commitments have not come to pass.

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The committee has called for an end to rhetoric and the implementation of a properly funded system and long-overdue workforce strategy.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “Carers, younger and older adults needing care, and home care have seen decades of neglect, and the 1.5 million who work in care deserve much better.

“The reforms to address this now must include a long-term funding plan that allows local authorities and providers to innovate and improve services. We cannot afford more broken commitments on care.”

Her thoughts are echoed by the care sector, which broadly welcomed the recommendations.

Care England CEO Professor Martin Green said: “This hard hitting report makes it absolutely crystal clear that reform is not only necessary but essential. We hope that the Government will adhere to the excellent recommendations and ensure that social care gets the attention it deserves, it is not just a case of money but system review.  Social care is linked intrinsically with the NHS and it is therefore futile focusing on one and not the other”.

Vic Rayner, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF), said: “The timing of the report is very pertinent, as it recognises the intense financial pressure that providers face, and the need for the government to lay out the vital support needed to comply with government guidance in a manner that will enable care providers to plan and prepare for the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 presents to those running care services.”

Rayner added that report brings to the fore the real challenges of cross subsidy arrangements within care, determining that those who pay for care often do so at a price that is much higher than that which any local authority will pay.

However, she warned that the committee “does not go far enough” in terms of calling out the inequity of that cross subsidy arrangement.

“They should be arguing for a fair price for care – one where everyone pays the same – whether they have their care paid for by the local authority or they pay themselves,” Rayner explained.

The PAC report warned that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has “poor oversight” of the social care system and “seems complacent” about the risks of local market failure”.

It concluded that it is now “vital” that DHSC clearly and in detail “sets out how it will help providers move beyond it”.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea commented: “Time and again the hand-to-mouth care system is shown to be broken. It’s crying out urgently for radical reform and proper investment. The Prime Minister can’t go on kicking this problem down the ​road.

“The report’s conclusion that the Department of Health and Social Care was ‘complacent’ about the collapse of providers will be distressing for those receiving care and ​for their families ​too.

“Care is too important to be left to the whims of the market. It should be publicly funded and run, with a long-term staffing plan.

“This must recognise care work is skilled, tough and those who do it deserve ​far better than the poverty wages they’re paid.”

Tags : Public Accounts Committeesocial care reform
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke