An influential cross-party group of MPs has called on the UK Government to carry out “major reform” on how social care is funded, warning that inadequate funding is driving down the quality of adult social care provision in England.
The Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) report says the Government needs to “urgently review how social care is funded in the long term and address serious threats to social care provision”, adding that the funding crisis is impacting “on those receiving care, the NHS, care staff, carers and providers”.
Funding constraints mean councils are providing care and support to fewer people, the report says The care provided is often limited to those with the “highest needs” and the “minimum required for a person to get through the day”.
The report also concludes that “gaps in funding have led to a deterioration in the overall quality of care and that this is likely to continue”. Providers have been pushed to “the brink of financial viability”, the Committee warns, “leading to them failing, exiting the market and handing back contracts for provision of care services”.
The CLG Committee welcomed a commitment by the Chancellor to provide an additional £2bn for social care over the next three years, but warns that “this will not be enough to close the social care funding gap”. “Expenditure on adult social care will need to rise as a proportion of total public expenditure”, the Committee says.
The CLG recommends that the Government use its new social care Green Paper, promised by the Chancellor in the Spring Budget, to explore all possible avenues to increase funding including national taxation – such as changes to income tax and pensioner’s benefits, or a compulsory new social insurance scheme.
Councils should also be allowed to use revenue from additional business rates to help reduce the funding gap, once 100 per cent retention comes into effect.
Clive Betts, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “During our inquiry we heard mounting concerns about the serious impact which inadequate funding is having both on the quality and on the level of care which people receive.
“We heard compelling evidence of acute threats to care providers’ financial viability and an increasing reliance on unpaid carers.
“It is clear there are also severe challenges in the care workforce, with high vacancy and turnover rates, and low pay, poor employment terms and conditions, lack of training and inadequate career opportunities the norm across the sector.
“A long-term fix, working on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, is urgently necessary to meet the ever-increasing demographic pressures on the system.
“This review must be ambitious and consider a wide range of potential funding sources, looking again at age-related expenditure, options such as a hypothecated tax for social care, a compulsory insurance scheme, and differences in how individuals contribute.
“The review must take a wide look at what we will spend this money on in the future – on support, on preventative care and intervention, on the care workforce – and ensure that care users are at the centre of how care is organised and that they get the assistance they deserve.”
Responding to the report, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The Committee has rightly recognised that an urgent review of how adult social care is funded is essential if we are to address the serious threats to social care provision in the long term.
“The announcement of £2 billion for adult social care in the Spring Budget marked a significant step towards protecting the services caring for the most vulnerable in our communities over the next few years, but it will not deal with all short-term pressures and it is not the long-term solution to the funding crisis that we have consistently called for.
“It is impossible to plan for the long-term without assurances of long-term funding.”
“The Government’s commitment in this year’s Budget to publish a Green Paper which explores options for a long-term solution to the social care crisis provides the opportunity to begin a much-needed meaningful national conversation about how, as a society, we should best support people of all ages with care and support needs in our communities.
“For the Green Paper to be successful, local government leaders must play a central role so that any solutions are workable, affordable, and support the spirit and letter of the Care Act, which councils are fully committed to.
“All options must be on the table. The review must look at the increase in numbers of informal carers, the care that is provided to people with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities, as well as care and support for older people.
“This is the only way we will find a solution that ensures our future generations enjoy a care system which doesn’t just help them out of bed and get them washed and dressed but ensures they have dignified and fulfilling lives.
“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade, councils are clear that the recommendations that come out of the Green Paper cannot end up being kicked into the long grass like other social care reviews, inquiries, and commissions have been in the past decade.
“It is vital that political differences are put aside in the interests of real leadership so that we can tackle this crucial public policy question.
“We have long called for income generated by localised business rates to be used to cover existing pressures before any new responsibilities are considered, so we are pleased that the Committee is recommending that local government should be allowed to use some of the additional business rates revenue to close any adult social care funding shortfall that exists when 100 per cent business rates retention comes into effect.”