Opinion: £5.4bn pledge to fund social care ‘woefully inadequate’

Jan Tregelles CBE is the CEO of Revitalise and Chair of Access Social Care, she was awarded a CBE in the 2022 New Year’s Honours for her contribution to social care. In this feature, she explains why the government’s pledge to commit £5.4bn of funding to social care falls short of what the sector needs.

We all know the danger of using outdated figures – it can cost money, time, even lives. But for some inexplicable reason, this government has chosen to decide how much money it is going to spend on social care on data collected years ago, using opaque calculations and without a clear link between the level of need and the amount of money being put aside to meet that need. 

This is bureaucratic madness. Without an up-to-date understanding of how much is required to be invested into social care, then the government is flying blind. Effective policymaking will be impossible.

With National Insurance hikes due to be implemented in April, all eyes are on the government to fulfil their social care reform election promises. Yet it has allocated less than £2bn of new money per year for the next three years. This is woefully inadequate and pales into insignificance compared to the £4.3bn the government was so quick to write-off in unrecoverable Covid-19 loans. The Health Foundation estimates that in the next financial year, adult social care will need an additional £3.7bn just to meet demand and improve access, while an additional £7.9bn will be needed to ensure everyone has the social care they so desperately need. 

At its most fundamental level, social care is about basic human needs. It’s about being able to see your loved ones, ensuring people aren’t left to sit in soiled clothing, and are washed and fed. It’s about dignity, rights, and independence. 

There are 400,000 people currently waiting for a social care assessment. Cash-strapped local authorities are desperately managing inadequate budgets through unlawful delays and gatekeeping, causing a terrible situation for older and disabled people and their families. This tsunami of unmet need is set to compound.

The situation is worst in the most deprived areas of the country, meaning people with the most need are the most affected. Those reliant on state funding will be yet again pushed to the bottom of the pile. 

In my roles as Chair of Access Social Care and CEO of Revitalise, the UK’s leading provider of respite care and breaks for disabled people and their carers, I see every day the consequences of not having a fully functioning social care system. This isn’t just about money. The whole system needs reforming, as well as being fully funded. A lack of coherent structure or connected thinking means that taxpayers’ money is being wasted when those crucial funds could be redirected towards the funding shortfall. 

I recently met a gentleman who had been in one of our Revitalise respite services at a cost to the taxpayer of over £24,000, purely because social services hadn’t fitted a handrail at his home, and a young woman who spent 18 months in hospital at huge cost to the NHS due to not having an accessible bathroom at home. These are just two examples, but I could give dozens more.

The social care funding system is broken and urgently needs to be fixed. I have been working in social care for 37 years and it’s the worst it has ever been. And it’s only going to get worse with increasing staff shortages, and a smaller pool to recruit from thanks to the social care staff mandatory vaccination policy, Brexit, and a lack of money to compensate people properly financially for skilled care work. 

Either more money needs to be invested in social care – a great deal more money than the government thinks is needed – or the government must admit that it cannot provide the level of care to which people are legally entitled.

If money is going to be invested, then it’s got to be spent in the places where it’s needed. Don’t just, as the government is planning to do, blindly throw £1.8bn a year at the problem. There’s no concrete evidence or data behind that pledge. 

We are calling for the government to use accurate data to ensure it knows exactly what the current situation is, and to reform the current funding structure so Local Authorities can meet their statutory needs.

The government’s pledge to commit £5.4bn to social care over the next three years is just not enough and will result in disabled people, older people, and their carers being denied the social care to which they are entitled. It’s time the government addressed this issue – for good.

Photo credit HM Treasury via Flickr


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