Adult social care hampered by Government’s failure over long-term plan, warns watchdog

Adult social care is being hampered by the Government’s failure to detail a long-term plan for care, the Whitehall spending watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said the current arrangements for accountability and oversight are “ineffective” in a critical report published on Thursday.

The watchdog ordered the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to detail a “cross-Government, long-term, funded vision for care” as “a priority”.

Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) said it was “yet more evidence of the urgent need” for reform as he urged the Government to “make good on its promises” on social care.

Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, told the Government to immediately “get a grip on the crisis” while health leaders said the report displays the “serious cracks in the foundations” of the care sector.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “highly likely” that social care would be mentioned in the upcoming Queen’s Speech, which sets out the Government’s legislative agenda.

The NAO report said the reliance on short-term funding settlements has “hampered long-term planning, innovation and investment in care”.

It warned that the Government’s increasing emphasis on raising funds through increases in council tax could “disadvantage those areas with a lower tax base”.

The watchdog added that there are “high levels of unpaid care and unmet need” estimated, while coronavirus could have short to medium-term consequences for the market’s financial sustainability.

And it criticised the DHSC for not having a “clear strategy to develop accommodation for adults with care needs”.

Mr Hunt, the chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, said: “This National Audit Office report is yet more evidence of the urgent need for a sustainable long-term funding settlement and a credible plan for the future of social care.

“As report after report makes clear what is needed, it is high time for the Government to make good on its promises to the people in social care.”

Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said: “The findings of the NAO report once again highlight the serious cracks in the foundations of the social care sector.

“The social care system is in urgent need of radical reform and significant investment – the Government must now rapidly deliver on its manifesto pledge to transform the sector.”

Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said that the Government has repeatedly promised it has a plan to tackle the social care crisis, but the NAO report “shows this is simply not the case”.

“This unsustainable situation can’t go on – the Government must get a grip on the crisis in social care and it must do it now,” the Labour MP said.

NAO head Gareth Davies said: “The lack of a long-term vision for adult social care coupled with ineffective oversight of the system means people may not get the care that best supports them.

“The Department of Health and Social Care has increased its focus on adult social care in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It needs to build on this to ensure that its long-awaited reforms deliver affordable, high quality and sustainable adult social care for the future.”

Labour’s shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said: “The Prime Minister promised to fix the crisis in social care on the steps of Downing Street in July 2019 – but 18 months later this plan is still nowhere to be seen.”

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