County councils warn against national service as social care needs ‘good, local knowledge’

Council bosses have warned against the creation of a national care service, telling MPs it is “not the way forward” to solve the sector’s problems.

They also said the Government’s health and social care proposals do not address the “here and now” problems of increased demand, financial pressure and complexity of need brought about by the pandemic.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) committee was holding the first evidence session of its inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care.

Witnesses were asked about media reports that the Government is considering introducing a national care service.

Tim Oliver (pictured), chairman of the County Councils Network and leader of Surrey County Council, said: “Not all of social care is about medical issues or medical interventions. I can’t see at the moment that that will add any significant value.”

He continued: “Delivery of social care – it needs good, local, community knowledge.

“It’s not something you can control centrally or direct centrally, it does need to be done absolutely at the ground level, so personally I would leave the current system, current structure, as it is.”

Stephen Chandler, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said local government is “really good” at doing things like helping people coming out of the criminal justice system to get their lives back on track, and people who are homeless to find stable accommodation.

He added: “I’m not convinced that a national care system would be able to replicate that – we know our communities at a local level, we work with them.

“So, I think, address some of the shortfalls in the current system, but I think nationalising it or creating a national care system is not the way forward.”

Mr Chandler, who is also the director of adult services at Oxfordshire County Council, said the Government’s health and social care plan does not address the “here and now problems of increased demand, increased complexity of need as a result of the pandemic”.

The Government has pledged to invest £36 billion over three years, to be funded through a UK-wide health and social care levy based on national insurance contributions paid by working adults.

Most of the money in the first three years will go towards the NHS, with social care receiving £5.4 billion.

More money will be diverted to the sector after the three years as people hit the cap, but it is not clear how much the sector will receive at this point.

Mr Oliver said: “None of that £5.4 billion will support the current pressures under the current system.

“So, it will provide some support for the transition into that new world, so to speak, but won’t deal with the current issues and certainly won’t deal with the longer-term issues.”

He added that the Government needs to give an “absolute commitment” on how much of the levy raised by the national insurance hike will go towards social care.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless work of health and social care staff throughout the pandemic.

“We are committed to delivering world-leading social care across the country and are investing an additional £5.4 billion over three years to put in place comprehensive reforms that are sustainable and fit for the future.

“We are also working to ensure we have the right number of staff with the skills to deliver high quality care to meet increasing demands.

“This includes running regular national recruitment campaigns and providing local councils with over £1 billion of additional funding for social care this year.”

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