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Prime Minister under pressure to deliver on delayed social care reform


By Jess Hacker
29 April 2021

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The social care sector is in ‘desperate need’ of reform to support the NHS as the country comes out of the pandemic, the Prime Minister has been told.

In an open letter from Care England (27 April), which was signed by 26 healthcare leaders, MPs and Lords, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was urged to deliver on his commitment to social care reform when Parliament opens next month.

The signatories – who include Lord Victor Adebowale, NHS Confederation chair, and Sir Ed Davey MP, leader of the Liberal Democrats – said that the adult social care workforce has demonstrated ‘tremendous commitment and resilience’ during the pandemic.

It also highlighted the tragic number of deaths seen in care homes – with over 30,000 residents and almost 900 staff having lost their lives.

‘The sector is on its knees, and is in desperate need of reform in order that we can craft a long-term future, that will protect citizens, reduce the burdens on the NHS and establish good careers in social care,’ the letter said.

The signatories also backed the Health and Social Care Select Committee’s recent calls for £7bn funding a year for the sector, which they said would help to ‘secure a long-term future for care, create new careers and build back stronger after the pandemic’.

The letter pointed to Age UK figures which suggest more than 1.6 million people aged 65 and over do not receive the care they need, with that number projected to reach 2.1 million by 2030.

It also cited an Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) report, which found that in the past four years there has been a 10% increase in the number of young people with disabilities who require social care.

The sector needs ‘its 1948 moment to establish a long-term and sustainable future, that will be to the benefit of all citizens and the economy’, the letter said.

‘Clear timetable’ needed

A green paper on reforming the social care was originally promised in 2017, but has since been delayed multiple times, reportedly because of internal disagreements over funding reforms.

Last month, the Prime Minister agreed to grant the sector a 10-year plan – similar to that for the NHS – after having first pledged to fix the sector when he took office. Health secretary Matt Hancock also wrote to MPs asking for their input on reform.

Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation, said that legislative proposals to fix social care are needed after ‘decades of delay’, adding that the Government was still yet to make ‘any real progress’.

He said: ‘Social care reform is now urgently and desperately needed. We urge the Government to set out a clear timetable, which details how reform of the sector can be delivered, and this needs to be supported by a long-term financial settlement.

‘The NHS and social care are sister services and have been supporting one another and working closely for many, many decades. If one service is suffering, the other does too, and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year have yet again served to highlight how brittle and under-resourced England’s social care system has become.’

In an NHS Providers podcast last week, Jeremy Hunt said that the Government must put social care on ‘secure, long-term footing’, adding that ‘if you ignore the social care system it just spills over into the NHS’.

He added that although the Prime Minister had acknowledged the need for a 10-year social care plan, it was not mentioned in the most recent Budget announcement.

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