The government must devise a credible plan by the end of the year for establishing a sustainable adult social care system and implement it quickly, MPs have said.
A report published today by the Commons public accounts committee says the social care system is in a “precarious state” with “clear and obvious signs of financial stress” and high levels of unmet need which are continuing to grow.
The PAC said the green paper promised by July “must not be the start of yet another protracted debate about the future funding of care” and expressed concern that the Department of Health & Social Care sees it as a “cure all” and currently underestimates the scale of the challenge.
The report said the department believes social care is currently adequately funded as all local authorities, with the possible exception of Northamptonshire CC which issued a section 114 notice in February, appear to be fulfilling their statutory duties under the Care Act 2014.
However, the PAC found the department does not know whether cuts to support for people with low and moderate needs will lead to more people requiring statutory care services in the future.
The report said the department also does not know whether the ways in which councils commission care and the rates they pay are contributing to problems with recruitment and retention of the social care workforce, despite having overarching responsibility for the care market.
The PAC said the department has argued that it has “few levers” to influence social care provision and has acknowledged it could use existing powers more effectively and is yet to develop the right strategy to ensure services will meet current and future demand.
PAC chair Meg Hillier (Lab) said short-term “funding fixes” such as the social care precept are “a road to nowhere” and challenges in the system are “well-documented, clear and pressing”.
She added: “The sector is scraping by and without an explicit, long-term plan backed by government it could soon be on its knees.
“We urge government to publish this year, and then implement, a credible long-term funding plan for care.”
Responding to the report, vice chair of the Local Government Association community wellbeing board Linda Thomas (Lab) said the report “lays bare the stark facts behind the adult social care crisis”.
She added: “Unless immediate action is taken to tackle increasingly overstretched council budgets, the adult social care tipping point, which we and others have long warned about, will be breached, which will lead to a substantial increase in people’s care needs not being met and overspending by councils.”
President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Glen Garrod said the report’s findings would come as no surprise to people working in the social care sector.
He added: “Whether it’s the young adult with a profound disability or the grandparent with dementia, social care is there for us when we are most vulnerable, and it’s crucial it’s respected as the vital care that it is.”