Levelling-Up Committee calls for more social care funding

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on August 6th 2022, 12:12am

The House of Commons Levelling-Up Committee has called for the government to provide more money for the adult social care sector in England.

The committee warned that current funding for social care “wouldn’t touch the sides”, even after the government increased National Insurance contributions in April 2022 to channel more money into the industry.

In its report, the committee said that even with the new Health and Social Care Levy on National Insurance, a “large funding gap in adult social care” would remain which “needs filling”.

The report also acknowledged that the sector had been “ravaged” by the cumulative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing demand, recruitment and retention issues, inflation and hikes in the National Minimum Wage.

Levelling-Up Committee chair, Clive Betts, suggested that as much as £7 billion per year was needed to cover funding shortfalls in social care.

Betts said: “The issue is going to grow more profound and if we don't address it then the pressures on the NHS and the pressures on families who are trying to support their loved ones without the proper resources are just going to grow and grow.

“As a civilised society we have to address it we have to make sure that finance is available.”

Concerns were also raised by the committee that the NHS would absorb most of the funds raised by the increase in National Insurance and the money ring-fenced for social care would not go to where initially promised.

The committee suggested a likelihood that any money left for social care would instead go into reforms rather than alleviating cost pressures in the industry.

Responding to the report, the Nuffield Trust’s deputy director of policy, Natasha Curry, said that more resources were needed in the sector to turn aspiration into real action.

Curry said: “The new prime minister and government should be under no illusion that the significant challenges in social care are now fixed. It is time to stop overplaying the scope of the reforms tabled and underplaying the situation on the ground.

“The white paper currently amounts to little more than an aspiration. MPs are right to be concerned about the lack of a comprehensive plan that addresses deep-rooted problems across the sector. Urgent action is needed to tackle workforce shortages, instability in the provider market, as well as shoring up the shaky financial foundations that the current plans for reform sit on.

“A shortage of workers across the social care sector is the biggest worry for providers of care. There is a desperate need for a realistic workforce strategy that goes beyond a wish list and puts pay for all social care staff on a competitive footing, which adequately rewards qualifications, responsibilities and experience"

“It is people struggling to access support to meet their needs and the unpaid carers and family members filling the gap feeling the results of years of neglecting the sector and growing staff shortages. The pandemic has made these challenges more severe, and with Covid-funding coming to an end, we expect access to care to become even more challenging in the short-term.”

Both candidates in the Tory leadership contest, foreign secretary Liz Truss and former chancellor Rishi Sunak, both hold opposite views over the future of the Health and Social Care Levy.

Truss favours scrapping the hike which came into effect in April and insists that there is “money available” elsewhere in the budget to channel appropriate funding into social care.

Sunak, meanwhile, who introduced the policy when he was chancellor, defended the move as the “right thing to do” for health and social care and plans to carry it through.

National Insurance will revert to its former rate from April 2023 under current plans, at which stage the extra funds will be channelled into health and social care under the levy.

A spokesperson for the government said in response to the committee’s report that ministers were already investing £5.4 billion into social care over the next three years, while a further £3.7 billion were going to local authorities to spend on it.

The spokesperson added: “We are also delivering on our ambitious 10-year vision for adult social care, which provides detail on the measures to implement over the next three years to reform the sector and deliver for people.”

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

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Authored By

Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
August 6th 2022, 12:12am

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