Local government chiefs warn failure to act on social care reform ‘will be bitter blow for millions’

A failure to act on long-promised social care reform will be a “bitter blow” for care staff and the millions they help, councils have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech and the spending review later this year are “key opportunities” for the Government to make good on its promise to “fix” the sector.

Care groups, charities and politicians have been long calling for a plan, as promised by the PM in his first speech after being elected in July 2019.

During that speech, Mr Johnson said he was “announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared”.

No such plan has yet been published.

On Monday, health minister Nadine Dorries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there would be a mention of social care in the Queen’s Speech but that she was unable to give further details.

When asked last week the PM did not guarantee that proposals will be detailed in the speech, instead saying these will be brought forward in the “next few months”.

In a letter to the Chancellor and ministers for health, care and housing, the LGA says one-off Government grants and the social care council tax precept are “sticking plaster solutions” when long-term funding is needed.

For the Government to “make good” its promise, it must deliver three things, the LGA says.

These are investment to deliver a preventative approach enabling people to be supported in their own homes; an end to ‘sticking plaster solutions’ and a long-term funding solution which could include increases in national taxation and/or a social care premium.

The LGA also polled 102 MPs and 94 peers between November and February and found that 83% are in favour of increased funding for councils’ social care budgets.

Councillor James Jamieson (pictured), LGA chairman, said: “The decisions on social care funding and reform in the coming weeks will potentially impact both the millions of people who draw on or work in care and support now, and the many millions more who will do so in the decades ahead.

“Our latest poll of MPs demonstrates the broad support across Parliament for additional funding for councils’ social care budgets.

“All of us in local government, across the political divide, want to see the Queen’s Speech finally set out the plans we have been waiting for and make good on the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘fix social care’, once and for all.

“This is about an investment in people, in all of us. A failure to act will be a bitter blow to everyone connected to social care.”

MHA, the UK’s largest charity care provider, said the time has come to “finally fix care for all”.

A growing population of older people “deserve respect and certainty for their future”, said chief executive Sam Monaghan.

He said: “Over the last 20 years the adult social care sector has borne the brunt of many broken promises. There have been green papers, white papers, commissions, reviews, yet still the system remains broken.

“What we now need is decisive action from Government. We need to make sure care is properly resourced, we value our care workers, people have a say in their care, funding is accountable, and there is a seamless pathway with health services.

“The time for talking is over. Ageing isn’t an abstract concept, it’s something which we will all have to face one day so it’s in all our interests to get this right going forward.”

The National Care Forum has published an eight-point plan for reform of the sector, including making reform a priority, investing for the long-term so the sector is sustainable, and developing a plan to better value staff and provide career progression and training.

It also wants to see better recognition of not-for-profit providers, and a fair price for care when local authorities commission services and for individuals who currently face potentially catastrophic costs.

There must be a “dramatic increase” in housing that facilitates a wider range of care and support, so every area in England has access to all options, the NCF adds.

It says any reform must promote people’s independence, wellbeing and dignity, ensure choice, focus on prevention, and deliver “long-awaited reward and recognition” for staff.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Improving the adult social care system remains a priority for this government and we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

“Throughout the pandemic we have provided almost £1.8 billion in specific funding for adult social care including infection prevention and control measures.

“We’ve also provided free personal protective equipment and additional testing and prioritised health and care workers for the vaccine.”

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