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Credible plan to sustain underfunded social care sector needed this year

The adult social care sector is underfunded, with the care workforce suffering from low pay, low esteem and high turnover of staff, claims a committee of MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee report calls for urgent action to reverse care work’s poor public image and boost recruitment and retention.

The care sector is in a precarious state, the report says, but the Department of Health and Social Care has not yet said how it intends to put in place a long-term, sustainable funding regime to meet the ever-increasing demand for care.

It says the DHSC does not know whether the ways that local authorities commission care, and the prices they pay providers, are contributing to the problems within the care workforce.

The report says Brexit is causing uncertainty over how the workforce will be sustained, particularly in areas that are more reliant on non-UK workers.

There is an urgent need to reverse the poor public image that care work has to boost recruitment and retention across the care sector.

While the DHSC has committed to addressing all these issues through the health and care workforce strategy that it is currently consulting on, and the promised Green Paper on funding of care for older adults, the report says it underestimates the challenge.

Given the pressures on the sector, it says, the committee is concerned that the DHSC sees the Green Paper as a cure all and underestimates the scale of the challenge.

It must ensure that its delivery partner, Skills for Care, is properly supported and funded to implement the workforce strategy.

Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP, said:

“Adult social care needs sustainable funding and a stable workforce. The sector is scraping by and without an explicit, long-term plan backed by Government it could soon be on its knees.

“Levels of unmet need are high and rising; short-term funding fixes are a road to nowhere and the ingrained issues that lead to high turnover in the workforce could be compounded by Brexit.

“Government should not content itself with councils’ ability simply to meet the legal minimum for care provision. Nor should it seek solace in measures that risk opening a prolonged debate on the challenges facing the sector. Those challenges are already well-documented, clear and pressing.

“We urge Government to publish this year, and then implement, a credible long-term funding plan for care.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented: “The crisis in social care is certainly not a new phenomenon so it’s astonishing that the department charged with sorting this out still has no credible plan to fund it in a sustainable way, especially when so many providers are dependent on public funding.

“The significant pressures facing social care are a direct result of inadequate funding. This is having a knock-on effect in an already overstretched and underfunded NHS – when social care isn’t available, patients end up being unnecessarily sent to hospital and can experience delays in being discharged to appropriate social care settings. This is distressing for patients and places a significant strain on the rest of the health system.”

Read the full report.

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