Social care funding pledge ‘huge opportunity missed’ for radical reform

The Government’s pledge to deliver more than £5 billion for social care through a new tax is a “huge opportunity missed” and “nowhere near enough”, social care providers, think tanks and charities have said.

The Government is intending to raise £5.3 billion for social care between 2022-23 and 2024-25 via a new health and social care levy, funded by national insurance contributions.

It is a small part of the overall £12 billion a year that the Government expects to raise to help address the NHS care backlog and deliver much-needed social care reforms, with social care taking a larger share after the three years.

Many groups welcomed the announcement, acknowledging that it represents a significant step forward and an opportunity for long-awaited change.

But they also shared concerns that the money pledged is not enough, said immediate support is needed to address the current crisis in care, and questioned how increased funding will be diverted from the NHS to social care after the three-year window.

From October 2023, nobody will pay more than £86,000 for their social care – regardless of their assets.

The Government will fully cover the cost of care for those with assets under £20,000, and contribute to the cost of care for those with assets of between £20,000 and £100,000.

Around £500 million will go towards workforce training and skills, while money will also go towards increasing local authority payment rates, integration and quality.

Chief executive of the UK Home Care Association (UKHCA) Dr Jane Townson said: “This is nowhere near enough.

“It will not address current issues and some measures may create new risks.”

Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group, said it was a “huge opportunity missed for radical, once in a generation reform of the social care system”.

He said the amount promised to social care “isn’t going to touch the crisis in the sector and will certainly not address the 120,000 vacancies in staffing, which is sending the sector into meltdown on a daily basis as care providers struggle to cover shifts.

“It will not fund the proper recruitment and training of the thousands of staff we need, nor will it allow the sector to properly reward those staff who have played such a vital, life-saving role during Covid-19.

“It is too little and, it looks like being, too late.”

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, welcomed the long-awaited announcement but told the PA news agency it was “unfortunate” that the Prime Minister started off his statement by referring to the NHS.

He said it is unclear whether the cap – “more generous than I thought it was going to be” – will cover just care costs or hotel costs as well – the living costs of someone in a residential home.

Prof Green told PA: “We’ve got to find a way in which this process is speeded up, because the crisis in social care is happening now. And what we’ve seen is really big issues around trying to recruit and retain staff – the social care sector has been really bruised by the pandemic.”

He said additional money is needed to see the sector through until next April, and there also needs to be more detail on how much funding will be available after the three years.

Prof Green said: “They’ve got to have some clarity about how they’re going to fund this and they’ve got to give some expectations, so that people can plan for it, as to what that funding is going to look like when it finally kicks in.”

The Nuffield Trust said the “broken” social care sector will be feeling “short-changed and bitterly disappointed”.

Director of policy Natasha Curry said the £5.3 billion for social care will only partly “stabilise a dire situation and leaves little for meaningful change”.

She added: “The ability to make real improvements to care services will now depend on whether these funds can be excavated from the health service further down the line.

“Taking money away from the NHS is a task that has not been done before.”

The Care Workers’ Charity, which paid £2.2 million last year to social care workers in crisis, said it was “outraged” that only a small proportion of the money appeared to be going to social care.

The Institute of Health and Social Care Management said its members were “frustrated” by the announcement, while the disability charity Sense said “we don’t have confidence that this is the long-term, sustainable and sufficient funding plan that was promised”.

Caroline Abrahams, co-chairwoman of the Care and Support Alliance and charity director of Age UK, said: “Our initial assessment is that while the Prime Minister’s announcement doesn’t give us everything we wanted and we are worried about the funding, it is definitely worth having and a once in a generation opportunity to improve social care that must not be allowed to slip away.”

Richard Murray, chief executive of The King’s Fund, said setting the cap at £86,000 means that it will help “relatively few people”, while the Alzheimer’s Society’s Fiona Carragher called it “worryingly high”.

He said: “Whilst this plan certainly does not ‘fix’ adult social care, as the PM had promised, it is the most significant step forward for a generation.”

The Association of  Directors of Adult Social Services said: “This welcome announcement feels like a significant step forward and we hope that this will be the start of a new chapter for those of us with care and support needs, or who care for family members who do.”