Social care funding a “national scandal”, say Lords

A cross-party group of Lords has described social care funding as a "national scandal", urging the government to make an extra £8 billion available to the service immediately.

5 Jul 2019| News

In its new report, the Economic Affairs Committee found that, despite a rapid increase in the number of people who require social care, funding for the service has dropped by £700m in real terms since 2010/11.

This increased pressure on local authorities has forced them to reduce the provision of social care, with more than 1m adults in need of care now barred from receiving it.

Further, a lack of adjustment to the means test for help with social care costs since 2010 means that 400,000 people who cannot afford the help they need are not eligible for financial aid.

Committee Chair, Lord Forsyth, explained that the current system is unfair on everyone – service users, workers, and the general public.

“…family and friends are being put under greater pressure to provide unpaid care,” he explained. And “the care workforce continues to be underpaid and undervalued”.

But it is not only the amount of money available that is causing this crisis, it is also the uneven way that it is spent. The report found that the most deprived areas suffered the greatest falls in funding, and that care providers prioritise service users who are wealthy enough to cover their own care costs, leaving the poorest behind.

Further, local authorities are being abandoned by central government and forced to find the money for social care services themselves, despite the fact that some councils are faced with larger burdens of need than others.

“The whole system is riddled with unfairness,” Lord Forsyth said, noting the absurdity of the fact that people receive free NHS care their whole lives then are expected to front the costs of illness in old age themselves.

“Someone with dementia can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their care, while someone with cancer receives it for free,” he said.

As well as a cash injection of £8bn, the Committee recommended that all citizens should be entitled to free personal care if they come to need help with washing, dressing and cooking.

Commenting on the report, Assistant General Secretary of Unison, Christina McAnea, said it was high time for the government to “listen and get a grip”.

“But it is not just about funding,” she said. “We also have to be able to find workers prepared to take on the challenge of delivering complex care when they could earn more stacking supermarket shelves.

“A long-awaited green paper has now been delayed six times, despite the ongoing crisis in the sector. Action is needed now before the situation gets any worse.”