Social care is well placed to contribute widely to our society. It makes hundreds of thousands of lives better, but the stories underlining the strain it is under are not mistaken. It desperately needs reform and more resources to fully realise the benefits of a resilient care system and to tackle the challenges in the sector.
In September 2021, the government announced some important reforms to adult social care, including a ‘cap’ on care costs and an extension of the means test which determines whether people are eligible for state-funded care. But social care isn’t ‘fixed’ yet. These reforms and promised funding are not enough to provide care to everyone who needs it, to ensure staff are fairly rewarded, and to make other vital improvements to our social care system. Big challenges clearly remain.
In this briefing, the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust have come together to set out the potential benefits of tackling these challenges. We set out seven benefits of social care in England where there are opportunities offered by additional funding for further reform. We also put forward key priorities for the government’s promised white paper on adult social care reform.
Seven reasons to invest in social care
- Social care can enable people to live independent and fulfilling lives, but too few people have access to it.
- Social care plays a significant role in local economies, but the sector urgently needs stability and the market needs further reform.
- Social care provides skilled and fulfilling work for a large number of people, but they are currently not properly rewarded or developed.
- Social care supports millions of family carers to improve the quality of their lives, but many still don’t have the help they need.
- Social care is often rated well by regulators and people accessing care, but there are still too many poor-quality services.
- Social care has developed improved approaches to care through innovation and technology, but funding pressures are limiting their spread.
- Social care is a vital support to other public services like the NHS, but it must be properly funded for those services to fully benefit.
What needs to change
As the government develops the white paper it has promised for reforming social care, it must work together with people who draw on, deliver and plan social care to create a fair and sustainable system that enables people to live the lives they wish to live. Its priorities must include:
- Increasing access to care and better meeting growing need for care now and in the future
- Better meeting people’s needs and supporting their choice and control by improving the quality and range of care available and ensuring it joins up with other services
- Developing a comprehensive workforce strategy that tackles urgent problems staff availability and plans effectively for the future
- Advancing data and analytics to fill gaps in our knowledge about people who need and draw on social care and those who provide support
- Ensuring the social care market can support a wide range of good-quality innovative providers
To address these priorities, the government must spend more money. The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre projects that it would need to spend between an extra £2.5bn (just to meet future demand) and £9.3bn (to also improve access to care and pay more for care) by 2024/25. The recent funding announcement covers only some of this, providing around £1.5bn a year. Beyond the health and social care levy, there are a range of other options for raising additional funds.
Previous governments have promised social care reform but failed to deliver it. This government has made an encouraging start by committing to reform. It must now build on this.
The Health Foundation, The King's Fund and Nuffield Trust (2021) The value of investing in social care: What are the benefits of further funding for reform to adult social care in England? Briefing.