Select Committees call for action on social care
There is a growing sense of crisis about the fate of social care in England. Adult social care has been cut by more than 40% since 2009 and there is similar crisis in children's social care. However, until recently, this crisis has received minimal attention from the mainstream media or from political leaders. The crisis is primarily caused by cuts in public spending that target local government. These cuts began in 2009 and seem likely to continue until 2020. Recent plans to allow a modest increase in Council Tax will not end the problem.
Today the Chairs of 3 House of Commons Select Committees have urged the Prime Minister to reach a cross-party agreement on the future of health and social care funding. A letter to the Prime Minister has been sent by Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Committee, Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, and Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee.
The Committee Chairs say that a "political consensus" is needed to address the "pressing social care challenges facing the country" and that it must also include the NHS. They call on the Prime Minister to invite all parties to take part in an urgent review, covering the health and social care systems. The MPs continue: "In short, the problem is widely recognised – we now need political agreement so that a solution for the long term can be found."
The letter follows the Prime Minister's appearance before the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 20 December 2016, when she answered questions on health and social care funding. It reads:
"We were encouraged by your recognition at the Liaison Committee that everyone has a part to play in finding a sustainable way of ensuring social care provision in the future. You also accepted the need for a review to find a way of funding social care sustainably for the long term.
We believe that can best be achieved if there is cross-party consensus, and therefore urge you to invite all parties to become involved in a review, which should begin as soon as possible. Given the scale of rising demand, this immense challenge will face whichever Party is in government over the coming decades."
The Committee Chairs argue that the consensus should be reached swiftly so that the agreed approach can be reflected in the next round of Government spending. "We also feel that the ongoing separation of health and social care is creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies. Any review should cover the two systems", the MPs add.
The full text of the letter is available at:
Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform has been calling attention to the growing crisis in social care since 2011. He echoed the message of the joint letter:
"Funding for social care (for both adults and children) has never had a strong foundation and this has led to chronic funding problems for over 20 years. However the policy of austerity has turned a long-term problem into a desperate crisis, one which has seen rising death rates for older people and fundamental breaches of basic human rights for hundreds of thousands. I hope that this timely letter leads to a genuine rethink of policy within central Government."