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No more broken commitments on care: underfunded, unclear, urgently needs reform

16 June 2021

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

Governments of all political persuasions have promised social care reform for the past 20 years: “white papers, green papers, consultations, independent reviews and commissions” yet, “reform has not occurred”. 

Commitments the Government has previously made to the PAC - to ensure long-term funding is in place; to set out plans for tackling the problems faced by the social care workforce - have not come to pass. 

The costs of COVID-19 and the dramatic fall in care home occupancy from around 90% at the start of the pandemic to 80% by February 2021 put many providers at risk of failing, but DHSC has “poor oversight of the system and seems complacent about the risks of local market failure”.

The Government has provided welcome, significant short-term support to help providers through COVID-19 - now the Committee says it is vital that DHSC clearly and in detail “sets out how it will help providers move beyond it”.

The current system “does not work for local authorities or those paying for their own care”. Funding cuts have meant most local authorities pay providers below the costs of care and providers live “hand to mouth”, unable to take the long-term decisions which would improve services.

While information about care quality is available, there is a lack of transparency about what people or local authorities get for the money they spend.  

Social care is a “people business” and the long overdue workforce strategy must “tackle low pay, improve career development and tackle unacceptably high turnover. Care workers suffer greatly from a lack of parity with the NHS in terms of pay, conditions and status.” 

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.”

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Image: Pixabay