Social care reform

The pandemic has reinforced the need for a ‘1948 moment’.

In time and above all else, we hope the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered for revealing our natural instinct to care about each other. 

Whether it’s been our family, friends or neighbours, what we have wanted for those around us during this time is what we want for ourselves: to live the life we want to lead. 

Social care and support has shown itself to be an essential part of how we achieve that.

At the same time, the pandemic has exacerbated a number of funding pressures facing social care that existed long before COVID-19. 

The 2020 Spending Review provided some, but not enough, relief, and the recent Budget was notable for its absence of either short- or long-term measures to support social care. So where do we go next? 

“Lessons need to be learned so that we do not simply return to the status quo

Underpinning much of the narrative about the future of care and support from across the sector – including people with lived experience – is the idea that lessons need to be learned and applied from the pandemic, so that we do not simply return to the status quo. 

To help uncover all the learning, the LGA convened a series of roundtables last summer to discuss the future of social care and how to achieve this. 

Our recent report on the roundtables sets out several of the key issues identified, such as the need to start with a vision built around the individual person in their unique entirety, and which offers genuine control, choice and co-production. 

In turn, participants were also clear that trust and respect between all the different people who draw on, work in and interact with care and support matters hugely. 

Alongside our roundtable report, we also published a new pamphlet setting out the principles and priorities for reimagining the function, form and funding of social care in light of COVID-19.

In our pamphlet, we stated that action is needed now on social care as part of a new long-term plan, in the same post-war zeal and spirit of hope that led to the creation of the NHS.

This ‘1948 moment’ should include immediate investment to help meet the continuing costs of COVID-19 on social care, particularly on the care workforce and unpaid carers, as well as investment to tackle the social care funding gap. 

It should also help begin the process of moving to a new system of care and support that addresses unmet and under-met need – and improves provision, choice, control and quality – while securing a more sustainable and transparent funding model that pools risk, and protects people from facing catastrophic costs.

Over the past year, social care has yet again shown its value as an inherently local service, with councils playing a valuable leadership and coordination role in their communities.

Emergency funding to cope with COVID-19 costs to date has been helpful, but we need to move beyond ‘more of the same’, to a new era of care that puts more trust in people who draw on social care, better supports wellbeing, and enables everyone to live the lives they want to lead.

The Government needs to recognise this in the forthcoming Spending Review and publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible, before the summer parliamentary recess.

‘The lives we want to lead: where next for the debate about care and support reform?’, see www.local.gov.uk/publications

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