Campaigners are calling on Government to set an urgent timetable for social care reform as the crisis in the care of older and vulnerable people worsens during coronavirus.
The campaigners demand action is taken more quickly than suggested by NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, who has called for plans to be set out within a year.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) says the death toll from COVID-19 in care homes and care homes with nursing has shown the dire state the social care sector is in.
ICG Chair, Mike Padgham, said, 'We applaud Sir Simon’s call for a social care plan, but ask: why wait for a year? What we need is a plan set out and delivered within a year.
'The sector is in crisis now and has been for some time. We need to see a firm date and the Government held accountable for keeping to that date.'
Rocketing costs from buying personal protective equipment (PPE) and extra staffing costs have hit the sector hard at a time when admissions are falling. Age UK has warned that as many as 20,000 care homes could go out of business without urgent extra support.
Mr Padgham adds, 'The pandemic has left many providers in financial crisis and we have already seen some fail and close. We need to see action and we need to see it now, before the loss of care providers means we can no longer meet demand.
'Boris Johnson, when he first stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister, promised to sort out social care once and for all. We are still waiting. We have been promised a Green Paper for years but it has been repeatedly put back and we are still waiting. Social care cannot wait any longer. We had a promise from Tony Blair to sort out care in 1997, followed by Gordon Brown in 2008, David Cameron in 2012, Theresa May in 2017 and Boris Johnson in 2019.'
The ICG suggests Government could begin the timetable for social care reform by making social care providers zero-rated for VAT, providing an instant financial saving, and has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for him to do that immediately.
Its other priorities for reform include:
- An overhaul of the way social care is planned and funded.
- NHS health care and social care to be merged and managed either locally or nationally.
- Extra funding for social care, funded by taxation or National Insurance.
- A guarantee that people receiving publicly-funded care can receive it in their own home or close to where they live.
- A commissioner for older people and those with learning disabilities in England.
- A properly-costed national rate for care fees linked to a national career pathway and salary framework for care staff.
- A fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care.
- A cap on social care costs, including ‘hotel’ charges.
- A national scheme to ensure people save for their own care, as they do for a pension.
- A new model of social care delivery based on catchment areas – like GPs.
- CQC to have much greater powers to oversee all commissioning practises such as per minute billing and 15-minute visits.
- Less duplication of inspection between CQC and local authorities/clinical commissioning groups.
- Greater recognition of the role of the independent sector and utilisation of its expertise in the commissioning and delivery of social care.
- Allowing nurses and social care staff from overseas to work in the U.K. including lowering the salary cap.
- More nurse training and bursaries to encourage recruitment and end the shortage of nurses.