Social care funding crisis branded a 'stain on the nation' as ministers urged to cap costs in wake of coronavirus pandemic
Ministers have been urged to reform the social care sector
Lack of funding for social care in the UK has been branded a “stain on the nation” by a leading economist, as he called for ministers to implement a cap on the cost of services.
Sir Andrew Dilnot — who published a wide-ranging government report demanding action on the issue nearly a decade ago — has said there needs to be a lifetime 'cap' of between £25,000 and £50,000 on social care costs.
And appearing before the Commons Health Select Committee on Tuesday, the former Institute for Fiscal Studies chief warned: "We just do not spend enough money on care."
He said: "We’ve seen the tragedy of what's happened in last few months that has affected people based in care homes and receiving care in their own homes.
"We want to be a society where we look after people."
Sir Andrew said the underfunding of the sector, "staffed by, almost without exception, wonderful people doing great work, but not being adequately supported" was "a stain on us as a nation".
He added: "In all kinds of ways we have a system that doesn’t work, that doesn’t look after the people who need it well, that doesn’t look after the people providing the care well."
The Local Government Assocation has warned that social care providers face an extra £6.6bn in extra costs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, as they take on more staff, buy in personal protective equipment and invest in extra cleaning.
They said that 40% of the £3.2 billion of emergency funding given to councils to deal with the impact of the pandemic had been allocated to adult social care
But the group has called for a “long-term, sustainable funding settlement for social care once this current crisis is over”.
Sir Andrew was asked to lead a cross-party commission on funding for social care in 2010.
Its findings were unveiled in 2011, but the Government is still on the hunt for a way to fund the social care system. Plans to do so through a proposal dubbed the 'dementia tax' by critics were dropped in the wake of the 2017 election result.
Sir Andrew's proposed solution, which would see those in need of care only have to pay up to a certain amount from their own pocket, would "take away the fear" faced by thousands of families, he told MPs.
The economist said setting a cap on costs at £45,000, combined with reforms to the system, would cost the Government around £3.1bn a year.
And, urging ministers to consider taking action, he added: "It's just really, really important.
"There's so much about the way that we do things together in the UK...our schooling system, our health system, our transport system.
"This is one bit of our welfare provision which hasn’t been brought in.
"In 1948, when the rest of the welfare state was created, this was a very, very small issue.
"It's now a huge issue and I think there is political consensus to be achieved here, there is goodwill. We just need to get this across the line.
"We need to look to the Prime Minister, to the Treasury, to all parties in government and to our wider society to say this is a really, really important challenge for us, this is an opportunity to do something really good to help people who are receiving care have a much better life."
'WE MUST BE AS GOOD AS OUR WORD'
Health Secretary Matt Hancock wrote to MPs and peers earlier this year calling for cross-party talks on a long-term solution for the social care crisis.
The Health Secretary urged parliamentary colleagues to share “your proposed solutions and your concerns”.
He also announced that he planned to begin “structured talks on reform options” for adult social care in May.
But Labour dismissed the announcement, claiming a consensus could only be reached when the government presents its own ideas for reform.
Writing in the Guardian this week, committee chair and former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described Sir Andrew's proposals as "eminently sensible".
He wrote: "Britain spends a lower percentage of GDP on social care than countries such as Denmark, Norway or the Netherlands.
"We Conservatives always said the purpose of the painful measures taken in 2010 was short-term: to put the economy on its feet so we would be in a better position to increase funding for public services.
"We have delivered that for the NHS – now we must be as good as our word for social care. A once-and-for-all fix for this crisis cannot come too soon."