Government announce emergency funding plan for social care but face criticism over wider reform

All social care providers will be able to receive emergency funding directly from the Government, under proposed reforms recognising the need for “fast intervention” during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government will bring forward a measure allowing the Health Secretary to make emergency payments to all providers in England, not just not-for-profit bodies.

Its White Paper on the future of health and care, published on Thursday, also lays out proposals to support integration, reduce bureaucracy and improve accountability across the sector.

The Government said it recognises the “significant pressures” facing social care and is committed to reforming the sector, with separate proposals due later this year.

But charities and care bodies said they were disappointed this is not being addressed now, and that the Government has not gone far enough.

In its plans, the Government said the pandemic has “demonstrated the need for speed and flexibility” in providing support and has shown how “unforeseen and quickly changing circumstances may require fast intervention”.

The proposals mean providers would receive emergency support when needed “to prevent instability in care for the most vulnerable people in our communities”.

The new power would be used in exceptional circumstances and would not replace the existing system, where funding for state provision is provided through local authorities and supplemented by Government grants.

The Government is also planning to introduce a new duty for the care regulator to assess local authorities’ delivery of their adult social care responsibilities.

It said that, with increasing numbers of the population needing social care at some point in their lives, it is reasonable for the Government to ensure the system is delivering the right kind of care with the best outcomes.

If local authorities are assessed by the Care Quality Commission as failing in these duties, the Health Secretary will be able to intervene.

This would only occur as a “final step in exceptional circumstances when help and support options have been exhausted”.

The Health Secretary will also have powers to require data from all registered adult social care providers, regardless of where they get their funding and including private providers.

There is currently a data gap around services provided to people who self-fund their care.

More and better data collection will help with planning and a more efficient use of funding, the paper reads.

The proposals will also bring together the NHS, social care and local government to make decisions with the aim of providing integrated care.

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said the NHS and social care cannot be properly integrated without long-term funding reform for the latter – “an issue ministers have repeatedly ducked”.

Labour also questioned the timing of the proposed reforms in the middle of the pandemic, but Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “there is no better time than now”.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, welcomed the measures on greater assurance, data collection and funding to the frontline.

But she said the plan the sector has been waiting for for many years has “once again been drop kicked over the date line – landing at some unknown point ‘later in the year’”.

She added: “What we need now, not later, is something that is ambitious for social care.”

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said: “It is welcome news that NHS reform is happening but aside from mentioning social care, the Government hasn’t gone far enough in outlining its future.

“It is vital that both are reformed at the same time, otherwise social care will be left behind once again. Reforming NHS care without reforming social care is like rebuilding a house without mending the roof.”

Chris Reynolds, chairman of the health and care board at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, said the paper is a “step in the right direction”, but added: “Regrettably the Government has kicked the can down the road on providing clear solutions to the social care funding crisis.

“With Covid-19 exacerbating the pressures already placed on the social care system and the NHS under increasing budgetary strain, it is disappointing that this White Paper has failed to set out a clear strategy for tackling social care in both the short and the long-term.”

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: “The pandemic has laid bare the extent of the social care crisis, yet the sector must now wait many more months before it receives Government attention.

“Politicians have talked about integrating health and social care for years. But that can’t happen while care is in a state of permanent crisis.”

Richard Kramer, chief executive of national disability charity Sense, said: “Whilst the White Paper reiterates commitments to bring forward social care reform this has been promised for years with no progress – the time is now.”

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