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NCF responds to PAC report on the progress of adult social care reform

The National Care Forum (NCF) – the leading association for not-for-profit social care has responded to the publication of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report into the progress towards the reform of adult social care in England since the last election.

Today’s report comes as chronic understaffing, significant underfunding and a lack of availability and accessibility to care and support services, are putting sustained pressure on local authorities, providers, and wider communities. The PAC is calling for stronger leadership, long-term financial support, and a clear workforce strategy to address key shortfalls in the adult social care sector. In particular, it finds that the absence of a long-term funding settlement and the lack of any tangible plans, targets or milestones beyond 2025 concerning.

Vic Rayner, CEO of NCF said: “The Public Accounts Committee builds on and reinforces the findings of the National Audit Office’s report last September. That report found that DHSC has drastically scaled back its ambitions for system reform and underdelivered on its workforce pledges. Today’s report goes further and concludes that the government has fallen very short of its manifesto pledge to ‘fix the crisis in social care’ and is failing to meet most of the commitments contained within People at the Heart of Care. The conclusions of the report speak for themselves:

  • ‘It is far from clear if Integrated Care Systems are making a demonstrable different to adult social care delivery…. in health-dominated systems.’
  • ‘We remain unconvinced as to whether the Department knows if it is achieving value for money from the additional funding going to adult social care’ due partly to the nature of short-term emergencies ‘top-ups’ and ineffective uses of public funding.
  • ‘Local authorities are having to plan and commission adult social care services against a backdrop of fragmented and uncertain funding’.
  • ‘The Department has still not produced a convincing plan to address the chronic staff shortages in the long-term… it falls short on providing leadership on pay and ensuring parity of esteem with equivalent NHS roles.’
  • Long-awaited workforce reforms are way behind schedule and too dependent on a ‘novel’ payment system’.
  • ‘The Department faces significant challenges in delivering its ‘vision’ for adult social care reform, and Parliament and the sector must be able to hold it to account for its progress.’

“We are in an election year and any party wishing to become the next government must take the learnings from both of these reports if it is to be credible and effective in its plans to tackle the inequalities which see hundreds of thousands of people wait for assessments and care packages due to collapsing accessibility and availability of care. They need to speak up for care.

“We must reframe the story of social care. A future government must take a long-term, strategic approach to investment in adult social care as a key part of the nation’s infrastructure that will benefit everyone. It must see the full potential of social care as a public service which unlocks economic growth, enables people to return to work, reduces demand on other public services and enables people to live good, meaningful lives with their loved ones in their communities.

“We call on everyone who shares our vision for sustainable and fair social care to speak up for care and ensure that we cannot be ignored during the election campaign and its aftermath.

“We believe NCF’s ‘must haves’ of the next government reflect what the Public Accounts Committee has recommended:

  1. Think social care first because it matters to us all – ensure that people care about social care like they do the NHS and understand its central role in joined up health and care for people.
  2. Improve the pay, terms and conditions of the social care workforce – care work is intrinsically skilled and valuable and must be remunerated to reflect this.
  3. Invest in People, Not Profit – adult social care should be for people, not profit.
  4. Create an economic growth strategy for adult social care – social care is a large employer contributing £55.7bn to the English economy, making it an essential part of the national infrastructure.
  5. Enshrine Rights, Fairness and Choice for people in a National Care Covenant – co-produce and set out clearly the mutual rights and responsibilities of citizens, families, communities and the state.”
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