People aged over 40 and employers should pay into a dedicated fund to meet the growing demand for adult social care, as the current system is ‘not fit’ to meet future demographic trends, MPs have concluded.
A joint report by the housing, communities and local government, and health and social care committees has called for the introduction of a social care premium, either as an additional element of national insurance or with it paid into dedicated not-for-profit insurance fund.
To ensure fairness between generations, the premium should only be paid by those aged over 40 and extended to those over the age of 65.
The 84-page report described the social care system as under ‘unsustainable strain’, highlighting the need to plug an estimated funding gap of up to £2.5bn in the next financial year.
It said reforms at both a local and national level were needed to raise revenue with a long-term aspiration of providing social care free at the point of delivery.
The MPs argue that the personal element of social care, such as help with washing, dressing and eating, should eventually be delivered free, although accommodation costs should continue to be paid on a means-tested basis.
The report recognised that care operators were ‘under extreme pressure’ and that reduced local authority fees had led to ‘providers becoming increasingly focused on the self-funder market, resulting in a reduction in services in less well-off areas.’
It said vacancy and turnover rates here high, with zero hours contracts prevalent in the sector. Unison estimates that there are more than 300,000 social care workers employed on such contracts across the UK.
‘In its present state, the system is not fit to respond to the demographic trends of the future,’ the report said. ‘Of greatest concern, is the fact that the very people the system is there to support get only the care they need to survive, rather than the care they need to live full and independent lives.’
Clive Betts MP, chair of the housing, communities and local government committee, said: ‘The social care system is in a critical condition and there is an urgent need for more funding both now and in the future to ensure people are properly looked after.
‘Given the huge funding gulf, the government should now take the opportunity to build both a political and public consensus around the need for a new social care premium to secure a fair and sustainable system in the long-term.
‘The government must also consider social care in its wider context and ensure a proper joined-up approach with other services such as public health and housing.’
Sarah Wollaston MP (pictured), chair of the health and social care committee, added: ‘We can no longer delay finding a fair and sustainable settlement for social care. Too many people are being left without the care and support they need and it is time for decisions to be made about how the costs are shared.
‘Doing nothing cannot be an option.’
A government spokesperson said: ‘We recognise the social care system is under pressure and we’re committed to reforming it to ensure it is sustainable for the future. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and any reforms must be aligned – that’s why our forthcoming green paper will be published in the autumn with the NHS plan.
‘We have provided local authorities with £9.4 billion in dedicated funding for social care over three years and will agree a sustainable funding settlement at the forthcoming spending review.’