Social care facing profound problems as reforms ‘consistently dodged’, think tank warns

The next government has been urged to make social care a priority after years of reform being “consistently dodged or delayed”, a thinktank has said.

In its annual Social Care 360 report, the King’s Fund highlighted a number of trends from the sector.

It said financial eligibility for care continued to tighten, with the threshold for help remaining unchanged since 2010/11.

Local authorities are also facing rising costs, the report said, with the bill for purchasing care continuing to rise faster than inflation.

According to the King’s Fund, the average fee for working-age adults has increased to £1,540 from £1,400 since 2015/16, while the weekly fee for older people increased from £670 to £840.

The think tank also claims the vacancy rate in the social care workforce is at its second-highest on record, while about 19,000 fewer unpaid carers are receiving direct support.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow at The King’s Fund and lead author of the Social Care 360 report, said: “For decades social care reform has been promised by governments but consistently dodged or delayed.

“The latest figures make clear that the sector is showing little sign of improvement, leaving thousands of people without the support they need.

“There are severe financial pressures on local authorities who fund adult social care, and no sign that national government will step in to help. Nor is there a credible longer-term plan to recruit and retain the staff needed.

“At a time when adult social care has never faced more profound problems, with record numbers of people requesting support, this is surely the time for the next government, whatever colour it may be, to make social care a priority.”

The King’s Fund is calling on the next government to increase funding to stabilise the social care sector and make it more attractive to current staff and potential new recruits.

It also said there must be funding and eligibility reforms to make the system fairer, as well as reforms to improve quality.

Kaya Comer-Schwartz (pictured), social care spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “This important annual report highlight the perilous state of adult social care.

“It is disappointing and concerning that the Budget provided no new money for these under pressure services, despite an increased demand for them.

“We need to see further urgent investment in adult social care and a boost to the workforce to ensure the best possible care for those that draw on it.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said it is “fully committed” to improving the social care system, adding that it had made up to £8.6 billion in additional funding available this financial year and next.

A spokesperson said: “Additionally, we are investing up to £700 million to accelerate digital transformation and rolling out digital care records, as well as funding home adaptations to help elderly and disabled people to be more independent at home.

“We are also helping to attract and retain care workers, including by supporting their career development through a range of new funded training schemes and, for the first time, a clear career path through a new accredited qualification.”

However, the Liberal Democrats accused the Government of having “no real plan” to fix social care.

Responding to the King’s Fund report, Lib Dem health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “Again and again, we see reports like these that show social care is on its knees.

“Thousands of vulnerable people are struggling to get the care they need and all we get from this Conservative Government are broken promises and delays to reform.”

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