The government has breached parliamentary convention by failing to respond to a report on social care reform published 11 months ago, the chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has said.
In a letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean said the committee had not yet received a response to the ‘Social care funding: time to end a national scandal’ report released in July 2019.
The report found that an extra £8 billion was needed to fix an “underfunded” social care system in which 1.4 million people aren’t receiving the care they need and the workforce is “underpaid and undervalued”.
It also urged ministers to introduce free personal care, funded through general taxation, over a period of five years.
Lord Forsyth said the government is accountable directly to Parliament and it has a “duty and responsibility” to reply to Committee reports in a timely way, usually within two months.
“You said previously that the Department would not be able to meet the usual deadline, but you must agree that 11 months is not only an inordinate amount of time for us to wait but is a breach of parliamentary convention,” he added.
Lord Forsyth wrote to the Chancellor for the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, last month, demanding an end to social care reform delays, but this appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
In his letter to Hancock, the chairman of the committee said he was “disappointed” by the Chancellor’s response to his letter, which said that the report must be considered only “alongside the other reports that have been published in recent years”.
Explaining the urgent need for reform, Lord Forsyth added: “The social care sector is on the frontline of the current public health crisis. This has only served to highlight that its career structure needs urgently to be put on an equal footing with that of NHS workers to recognise its social importance and the skills of its staff. Funding must be made fairer and sustainable for the benefit of this and future generations.
“Our report sets out how this can be achieved fairly and set out how much it would cost. Social care must be brought closer to the NHS by introducing free personal care. Those in care homes would still pay for their accommodation and assistance with less critical needs like housework or shopping. “Those receiving care in their own homes would not have to pay accommodation costs, which may encourage care users to seek essential help with personal care early.”