Written evidence submitted to the long-term funding of adult social care inquiry has today been published. The inquiry sought views on both potential funding reforms capable of delivering sustainable long-term funding for adult social care, as well as inviting thoughts on the potential mechanisms that could be employed to reach political and public consensus on this topic.
We welcome the focus of this joint inquiry, given the pressing challenges facing adult social care – as highlighted in our Securing the future report, the Care Quality Commission’s 2017 report on the state of health and adult social care in England 2016/17, and the National Audit Office’s 2018 review of the adult social care workforce. Recent changes to social care funding streams haven’t provided the long-term sustainability that is required, and concerns have been raised about the lack of alignment of some funding streams with local need.
Yet in the midst of these challenges, the sector is now receiving the heightened profile it deserves. Determining the balance of personal versus state responsibility for social care funding and delivery is dependent upon the attitudes of politicians and the general public to whom they are accountable. Yet when it comes to social care, the public are not well informed – this needs to be addressed in the form of public engagement and involvement to foster the knowledge needed for a national debate about funding to occur. Reaching political consensus has historically proved difficult, so we suggest instead to seek consensus on key principles in the form of Future Care Guarantees that are capable of unifying politicians to work toward a common direction of travel.
In addition, we note that the current focus of the inquiry and the anticipated social care green paper are narrow in their remit. The debate needs to be broadened to acknowledge the fact that discussion and planning needs to not only focus upon the source but also the distribution of funds. This should take account of differences in need profiles, informed by a nuanced understanding of local care economies. Funds should be directed not only toward meeting the crisis of today but providing the means to innovate, for example through the use of emergent technologies – future sustainability demands investment in our ‘care infrastructure’ today.