Councils across England have warned against the creation of a National Care Service, insisting that care should be kept local in any potential reform.
In a new report, the County Councils Network (CCN), made up of 36 local authorities, argues that councils have delivered “quality services” despite yearly funding challenges.
The think tank report, The Other Side of the Coin, sets out the themes CCN believes should be at the heart of social care reform in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
It focuses on four themes: scope, infrastructure, resource and improvement.
Scope takes into account the range of adult social care services delivered by councils and ensuring reform “fully considers” working age adults, as well as older people and hospital discharges.
Infrastructure considers the best ways to deliver an adult social care system which is of high quality, provides value for money and engages communities.
Resource looks at providing the right resources to help adult social care be commissioned effectively to meet the needs of local authorities.
Finally, ‘improvement’ focuses on how a necessary framework should be put in place to not only ensure quality, but create an ongoing culture of continuous improvement, which helps everyone to live their best lives for as long as possible.
Cllr David Fothergill, the CCN spokesperson for health and social care, said: “County authorities have been warning for several years that the adult social care system has been close to breaking point. Coronavirus has thrown into sharp focus the urgent need for reform of the system – a move which CCN and its member authorities would very much welcome.
“However, any such reform must focus not on a narrow health-centric view of hospital discharges or care in residential homes, but recognise the huge fabric of social care provision managed by local authorities – including for those of working age with chronic conditions or mental health issues.
“Adult social care is, fundamentally, a local community service and any proposals for reform needs to consider the role local authorities have played in delivering quality care despite yearly funding reductions, rather than any knee-jerk moves towards centralisation. We therefore urge the government to take on board the principles outlined in this paper so that county councils’ extensive experience of delivering adult social care is fully reflected in any future proposals for reform.”
CCN has also announced that it would be commencing a new project in partnership with Newton Europe to explore and evidence the key themes for social care reform more deeply, drawing on the experience of local authorities delivering services on the ground and Newton’s expertise in the sector. The project is due to report later in the autumn.
Danny Sperrin, director at Newton Europe, said: “We are very much looking forward to working with the County Councils Network and its members, and to draw on our experience of delivering change with local authorities, in order to contribute to the national discussion on the future of social care.”
Meanwhile in Scotland, the First Minister has announced plans to investigate the creation of a National Care Service, following an independent review of adult social care.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs during her Programme for Government speech earlier this month that the service could be a “lasting and positive legacy” from the COVID-19 crisis.