Social care providers have been urged to raise the volume of protests over the crisis hitting the sector.
The call came during a gathering of members of the Independent Care Group (ICG), the voice of independent care providers in York and North Yorkshire.
The group’s chair, Mike Padgham (pictured) said: “We currently have four factors creating a perfect storm – ever increasing demand for more and more complex care; greater and greater scrutiny of that care; tighter and tighter budgets to work in; and rapidly rising costs – including the National Living Wage.
“We have a sector in crisis: more and more people going without care, care homes and domiciliary care agencies folding or on the brink, and greater and greater pressure on the NHS.”
Mike said providers needed to find a way to make a government focused on Brexit and infrastructure wake up to the plight of social care.
“I say we should have a referendum on social care and ask the country if it wants to pay a little more so that our older citizens – and that will include all of us soon enough – can have some proper care in our later years?”
The ICG chair suggested care home providers may need to take a direct role in local and central government by standing as councillors or MPs to get their voices heard.
“We need proper integration of social care and health services so we can move away from a hospital-based care system and towards an era when we have social care and health services working hand in hand to keep people happy and healthy, from the cradle to the grave,” he told delegates.
“We need to encourage, not discourage, providers to invest. Maybe through VAT changes or other incentives. And how about creating a system where independent providers remain independent but have local contracts – like the GP model?
“We need to recognise and use the independent sector more – the case has already been made that independent providers do things more cost-effectively than costly in-house provision; commissioners just need to acknowledge it and take advantage.”
According to the latest statistics 1m people are now living with unmet care needs, social care spending has been cut by over £5bn since 2009-10 and 26% fewer people are getting the help they need. A £2.8bn funding gap is predicted by 2019-20.
A quarter of care homes in the UK – some 5,000 – are said to be in danger of going out of business, after 3,000 homes closed in the six months up to September 2015.
The number of nursing homes fell from 4,697 to 4,633 in 2015-2016 – the first decline in five years.