A coalition of councils, social care organisations and charities has called for a “radical rethink” of the social care system, guided by lessons learned from COVID-19.
The call comes one year after the Boris Johnson said in his opening address as Prime Minister that the government had prepared a “clear plan” to fix the social care “once and for all”.
The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, together with 32 other organisations – including the Alzheimer’s Society, NHS Confederation and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services – have put forward a set of key principles, which they say must underpin social care reform in light of the pandemic.
They say the “legacy of the COVID-19 outbreak”, which has disproportionately affected older and most vulnerable people, means that a “radical rethink” is needed for a sustainable future system.
The principles focus on the need for extra funding, a new deal for the care workforce, the importance of person-centred care and supporting people to remain independent at home for as long as possible.
Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “For too long we have been promised a plan to fix the social care crisis, but people who use and work in these vital services are still waiting. The COVID-19 crisis has proved that we need a complete reset, not a restart, when it comes to the future of social care.
“The pandemic has also served to highlight the incredibly valuable role of social care in its own right and why it is more important than ever before that we find a long-term and sustainable solution, so that people of all ages can live the life they want to lead.
“Everyone who has been involved in dealing with the dreadful effects of this disease, including older people, unpaid carers, the most vulnerable and those who support them, deserve to know that the lessons learned will be used in shaping the future.
“This should mean care and support is properly based around every individual, keeping them safe, well and as independent as possible, and in their own home and community for as long as possible.”
The coalition is calling for the government to publish its timetable for social care reform before Parliament returns from summer recess in September.
“We urge the Government and other parties to begin cross-party talks on the future of adult social care, so we can get on with the job of realising our shared ambition of supporting people to live the lives they want to lead,” Jamieson added.
Commenting on Boris Johnson’s first year in office, UKHCA policy director Colin Angel said: “The Prime Minister pledged to fix the crisis in social care’, giving every older person the dignity and security they deserve. He referred to having a clear plan of reform, but there was no detail, other than protecting people from selling their homes to pay for care.
“Government’s response to coronavirus has delayed progress [on reform], but we have seen little evidence that it is prepared to deal with the size of the problem, or that planning is at an advanced stage.
“Older and disabled people’s needs cannot continue to be ignored. The NHS and social care depend on each other, but are funded and organised completely differently. Without radical change, people with care needs will continue to receive services rationed by underfunding and started far too late to prevent their independence deteriorating.”