The House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee has urged the government to spend £8bn to restore social care to acceptable standards and introduce free personal care over a period of five years.
The report, Social care funding: time to end a national scandal, warns that publicly funded social care support is shrinking because diminishing budgets have forced local authorities to limit the numbers of people who receive public funding.
Funding is £700m lower than 2010/11 in real terms, despite continuing increases in the numbers of people who need care. More than 400,000 people have fallen out of the means test, which has not increased with inflation since 2010.
The Health Foundation and King’s Fund estimate that to return quality and access to levels observed in 2009/10, the government would need to spend £8bn.
“Social care funding is unfair,” the committee said. “People receive healthcare free at the point of use, but are expected to make a substantial personal contribution towards their social care. In addition, national funding for social care is distributed unequally across local authorities.”
The report states that the funding shortfall has meant local authorities are paying care providers a far lower rate for local authority-funded care recipients than self-funded care recipients, and those care providers with a high proportion of local authority-funded care recipients are struggling to survive.
To address unfairness in the system the committee proposes bringing the entitlement for social care closer to the NHS by introducing free personal care, which would include help with washing, dressing or cooking.
People in care homes would still pay for their accommodation and assistance with less critical needs like housework or shopping. Those receiving care in their own homes would not have to pay accommodation costs, which the committee believes may encourage care users to seek essential help with personal care early.
This model would cost £7bn per year – only £2bn more than the government’s 2017 “cap and floor” proposal.
The committee said additional funding for social care should come from national government which should raise the money largely from general taxation.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, argued that the whole social care system is riddled with unfairness.
“Someone with dementia can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their care, while someone with cancer receives it for free,” he said. “Local authorities are increasingly expected to fund social care themselves, despite differences in local care demands and budgets. Social care funding has decreased most in the most deprived areas. And local authorities can’t afford to pay care providers a fair price, forcing providers to choose whether to market to those people who fund their own care or risk going bankrupt.”