A leading economist has said England cannot be proud of its social care system because it is not resourced properly and has called for action “now”.
Sir Andrew Dilnot said the system is not adequate, despite the “wonderful work” from carers, and the need for substantial reform has been going on for “too long”.
The Government, which published a White Paper on the future of health and care on Thursday, said it recognises the “significant pressures” faced by the sector and is committed to reform, with separate proposals due later this year.
Sir Andrew, who previously led a major review of social care, said: “It’s all too easy for social care to slip back into the shadows once the most acute phase of the Covid crisis is over, and for social care once again to become something that people don’t think about enough, that they don’t talk about enough, and we need to recognise that the social care system that we have at the moment, despite the wonderful work done by our carers, is not adequate.
“It’s not something that as a nation we can be proud of because we’re not putting enough resources into it.
“And that’s something that I wish had been resolved nine years ago and eight years ago and seven years ago and last month, and this month.
“I think realistically, our best chance now is either the budget, or more likely in the spending review this summer, and we all need to make as much noise as we possibly can.”
Sir Andrew was speaking at a conference called “Time for a social care people plan”, organised by the Future Social Care Coalition.
He also called for a system of “social insurance, with an excess” to pool the risk for people who may face “catastrophic” social care costs.
He said it is “just stupid” to expect individuals to save up enough to cover the potential cost of requiring decades of social care.
The Government should introduce a policy of social insurance and ensure costs are capped at a certain level.
In 2011 his commission argued costs should be capped at £35,000 – the equivalent of around £45,000 now.
He said: “I think the thing that we have to be clear about is that social care is something that we can only do together – we can only do it as a whole society.
“Most of us won’t need much social care through the rest of our lives – about a quarter of us will need none at all, but probably only 10 or 15% of us are going to need a lot of social care.
“We’ve no idea which 10 or 15% that will be – it will be crazy to try to address social care and the funding of social care on our own.
“The idea that we should save up enough as individuals, so that if we end up being one of those who needs a lot of social care we can manage, is just stupid.
“It’s completely infeasible for most of us, most of us would never be able to save up enough to pay for our social care if we ended up needing five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years of residential care or 20 years of domiciliary care.
“It’s not something that we can do on our own, we have to do it together, we have to pool the risk so that that everybody’s covered.”
Former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham called for a “cross-party” promise to social care staff who he said have been “neglected, undervalued and treated pretty disgracefully”.
He said this is a source of “national shame”, adding: “All parties have neglected social care out of political cowardice – it’s been deemed to be too difficult to sort out a proper funding system for the way we care for the most vulnerable in our society.
“Well no, actually, it should have been something that all the political parties faced up to and agreed many, many years ago, so I think this is a moment of everyone putting the politics to one side – everyone’s failed this workforce, we now owe it to them to put it right.
“And this is a sort of cross-party or cross-societal promise to them that from this point, we will give them the necessary reward, but also the necessary security, and the necessary professional development to do their job properly, and we will not allow any more, this sort of constant chipping away, constant undermining of them and their role.”