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Plans to reform social care have ‘gone awry,’ warn MPs

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee found that ‘chronic underfunding and rising waiting lists’ have failed to fix the crisis in social care

A new report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned that the Government’s plan to fix the crisis in social care in England over the next decade has ‘gone awry’. It noted that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) delayed reforms and slashed the budget for adult social care from £1.7 billion to £729 million for 2022–23 to 2024–25.

In 2019, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to ‘fix the crisis in social care once and for all.’ However, Meg Hillier MP, the pac chair said: ‘Years of fragmented funding and the absence of a clear roadmap has brought the adult social care sector to its knees.’

‘Waiting lists are rising, the sector is short tens of thousands of essential staff, and local authority finances are being placed under an unsustainable amount of pressure,’ she said.

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The committee has urged the DHSC to set out what it is doing to prepare for the next spending review, make the case for more stable funding, and ‘create a road map on how it will provide leadership across the sector to identify and address workforce challenges’.

Responding to the report, health leaders have called for urgent action to support social care services under financial pressure and to tackle a workforce crisis.

The Nuffield Trust think tank said the committee had delivered ‘a scathing judgment on the Government’s progress’ and backed the call for the DHSC to ‘provide clarity on how it intends to deliver change’.

Claire Sutton, Royal College of Nursing transformational lead for the independent health and social care sector said the report shows that ‘social care is gripped by devastating workforce shortages whilst staff working in the sector take home up to a third less pay than their colleagues in the NHS.’

‘Building an effective social care sector requires sustained central government investment, a bold workforce plan and pay parity between care workers and colleagues in the NHS. Anything less fails to appreciate the scale of the crisis,’ said Ms Sutton.

Meanwhile, the DHSC said it is ‘committed to reforming adult social care and has invested up to an additional £8.6bn over two years to meet the pressures facing the sector, grow the workforce and improve hospital discharge.’