On 21 February 2022 the Government published a response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee’s report ‘Social care funding: time to end a national scandal’. This report was published 4 July 2019. In its response, the Government apologised to the Committee for the time that had elapsed since the report was originally published.
The conundrum on how to reform the UK’s social care system is an issue which successive governments have grappled with. The objective of securing longer-term sustainability in social care, alongside a system underpinned by respectful treatment is one of the biggest challenges the UK government faces. The Committee considered several issues relating to funding, fairness and the way in which people pay for care. The Government has considered the Committee’s options, alongside working with, and developing plans with, over 200 stakeholders, including local government, think-tanks, providers of care and their representatives, professional bodies, charities and unions.
In its response the Government acknowledged the long-term challenges to the social care system in England. With the number of over 75 year olds expected to grow by 1.5 million in the next 10 years, and a growing population of under 65 year olds with complex care needs, social care that works for everyone has never been more important. On 7 September 2021 the Government announced, as part of its Build Back Better plan for Health and Social Care, allocation of an additional £5.4 billion over 3 years to begin a comprehensive programme of reform. This will be funded by the introduction of a new Health and Social Care Levy.
The Government’s response emphasised that £3.6 billion of this investment will be dedicated to reforming the social care charging system, including funding for local authorities, to move towards paying providers a fair rate for care. In addition, the Government will address unpredictable and unlimited care costs by introducing a new £86,000 cap on personal care costs, while at the same time extending the existing means testing regime so many more people will benefit from some state support towards the cost of their care.
In addition, a further £1.7 billion is being invested over the next 3 years to begin major improvements across the adult social care system in England. The Government’s white paper ‘People are the Heart of Care’, published on 1 December 2021, outlined its priorities for this investment and set out the Government’s 10 year vision for adult social care. This vision has 3 objectives:
- people have choice, control and support to live independent lives;
- people can access to outstanding quality and tailored care and support; and
- people find adult social care fair and accessible.
The proposals announced in the white paper are the first step towards delivering on this vision. This included the planned implementation of the following:
- at least £300 million to integrate housing into local health and care strategies, with a focus on increasing the range of new supported housing options available;
- at least £150 million of additional funding to drive greater adoption of technology and achieve widespread digitisation across social care;
- at least £500 million so the social care workforce have the right training and qualifications, have their wellbeing prioritised and feel recognised and valued for their skills and commitment; and
- more than £70 million to increase the support offered across adult social care to improve the delivery of care and support services, including assisting local authorities to better plan and develop the support and care options available.
This is the start of the Government’s comprehensive reform journey.