MPs call for urgent review of social care funding 

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An MPs report has called for an urgent review of social care funding and provision.

The Communities and Local Government Committee welcomed the Chancellor’s provision of an additional £2bn for social care over the next three years but said it fell short of the amount required to close the social care funding gap.

Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “During our inquiry we heard mounting concerns about the serious impact which inadequate funding is having both on the quality and on the level of care which people receive.

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“We heard compelling evidence of acute threats to care providers’ financial viability and an increasing reliance on unpaid carers. It is clear there are also severe challenges in the care workforce, with high vacancy and turnover rates, and low pay, poor employment terms and conditions, lack of training and inadequate career opportunities the norm across the sector.”

The report found that almost 50% of care workers left within one year with low pay, lack of status and inadequate training opportunities and limited career progression all cited as workforce issues.

A care workers’ charter is recommended by the report setting out what workers should expect from their employers.

The MPs also recommend better pay, a stronger career structure, better terms and conditions and a centrally delivered training and national standards and qualifications programme.

Mr Betts added: “A long-term fix, working on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, is urgently necessary to meet the ever-increasing demographic pressures on the system. This review must be ambitious and consider a wide range of potential funding sources, looking again at age-related expenditure, options such as a hypothecated tax for social care, a compulsory insurance scheme, and differences in how individuals contribute.

“The review must take a wide look at what we will spend this money on in the future—on support, on preventative care and intervention, on the care workforce—and ensure that care users are at the centre of how care is organised and that they get the assistance they deserve.”

The Committee found that 96% of people who fund their care paid 43% more than state funded residents in the same home for the equivalent service.

Council were increasingly taking a “price first, quality second approach” in their commissioning of social care with some paying as little as £2.24 per hour for residential care.

The Committee recommends the CQC oversees commissioning activities of councils and that local authorities carry out regular spot checks to ensure quality care is being delivered.

Tim Hammond, chief executive of Four Seasons Health Care, who was called to provide evidence to the inquiry, said: “Care providers welcome the Committee’s recommendation that Care Quality Commission oversee the market shaping, commissioning and procurement activities of councils.

“We also welcome that the Committee has listened to providers and is recommending a standard process both for assessing the costs of care, taking into account local variations in wage rates, and for setting fair prices that reflect costs, in order to help guide local authorities in setting fees.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, added: “Government policy needs to shift to ensure that the system is fit for purpose and provides what citizens need and want.  At present the system is too crisis based as opposed to enabling. This in turn disempowers people to manage their own care. Combined with this, the demographic changes mean that the current system is unsustainable. Tax payers are simply not getting value for money.”

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