The Government needs to reform the way social care is run to protect the sector from a future pandemic, the Independent Care Group said today.
The ICG wants to see an end to the current “fractured and confusing” management of social care and the creation of a National Care service to bring the sector and NHS care under one roof.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Hearing the covid inquiry – and in particular the evidence from Matt Hancock – has proved what we already knew, that the current system, of having NHS care controlled by central Government but social care managed by local authorities, simply doesn’t work.
“It hampered the Government response to the pandemic and was one of numerous factors that left the sector vulnerable to covid, with devastating consequences.
“The disappointing thing is that despite that experience during the pandemic, nothing has been done to address that and the Government still isn’t able to properly co-ordinate social care in the same way as it does the NHS.
“In 2020, social care was on its knees, under-resourced and under-staffed after decades of neglect and managed in this fractured and confusing way.
“Any attempts to throw a ‘protective ring’ around care were thwarted by discharge of untested patients into care homes, a lack of PPE and a lack of tests. Had the Government had oversight on social care as it has the NHS, we may have had a more effective, co-ordinated approach.”
Mr Padgham says the outlook for care remains challenging.
He added: “We are going through a crippling staffing shortage, huge increases in the cost of living and other costs and no sign of any respite or reprieve. The result is a loss of providers, an ever-reducing capacity in the sector which means more than 1.6m people living without the care they need and which contributes to delayed discharges at hospitals and increased waiting lists.
“I haven’t heard anything in the covid inquiry to suggest that lessons have been learned. Mr Hancock said the pandemic began with a social care sector in need of reform where the reforms hadn’t happened. I can tell Mr Hancock that the reforms still haven’t happened and we are in a worse place than ever.”
The ICG has set out its priorities for reform in its Five Pillars of Social Care Reform document to help the 1.6m people who currently can’t get the care they need. The five pillars are:
- Ring fence a percentage of GDP to be spent on providing social care to those who already receive it and the 1.6m who can’t get it
- Create a unified National Care Service, incorporating health and social care
- Set a National Minimum Wage per hour for care staff on a par with NHS
- Set up an urgent social care task force to oversee reform
- Fix ‘fair price for care’ tariffs for things like care beds and homecare visits.