Local authority leaders have warned that the absence of a long-term, fully funded plan for social care could destabilise other health and care reforms.
A report by the Health and Social Care Committee into Government reforms of the NHS and social care called for new legislation that would impose a duty on the Government to publish a 10-year social care plan with detailed costings, within six months of the Health and Care Bill receiving Royal Assent.
The committee warned that the lack of a fully funded plan for social care could undermine the success of the creation of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) throughout England.
‘We broadly support the proposed changes provided the new Integrated Care Systems are held accountable for the quality and safety of care delivered through transparent CQC assessments. But we remain concerned about glaring omissions, including the lack of social care reform, and a much-needed overhaul of workforce planning,’ said the committee chair, Jeremy Hunt MP.
‘If such issues are addressed the government has an opportunity to deliver a post-pandemic watershed '1948 moment' for the health and care system, matching the significance of the year the NHS was founded. But if they are not, it will be a wasted opportunity to deliver the truly integrated care required by an ageing population.’
The committee’s report into the Government’s proposed reforms of the NHS and social care follows criticisms from across the care sector that there was no funding pledge on social care reform in the Queen’s Speech.
In her speech, the Queen said: ‘Measures will be brought forward to support the health and wellbeing of the nation, including to tackle obesity and improve mental health. Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward.’
In response, CEO of The King’s Fund Richard Murray said that while the Health and Care Bill signals a ‘welcome step towards delivering integrated care centered around the needs of patients’, the Queen’s Speech ‘once again stops short of a meaningful commitment to reform England’s broken social care system’.
Responding to the Health and Social Care Committee’s report, Cllr David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘As the committee’s report rightly states, the absence of a long-term, fully funded plan for social care has the potential to destabilise other proposed health and care reforms.
‘A clear timeline is urgently needed from Government on when concrete proposals will be brought forward. We are keen to work with the Government and other stakeholders on a cross-party basis to ensure the millions of people of all ages across the country who draw on social care are able to access the support they need to help them live the life they want to lead.’
Cllr Fothergill also said that the LGA supports the aim of greater transparency in social care but has ‘significant concerns’ about the report’s recommendation for Ofsted-style ratings for councils’ social care services.
‘Assurance needs to build on existing sector-led improvement support, recognise local democratic accountability and give a meaningful voice to people who draw on social care,’ he said.
‘We favour a review-driven approach looking at care as a whole, based on a shared agreement of what ‘good’ looks like, a person-centred approach and locally flexible care and support.’