The government must take action to close the widening gap between the care and support needs of disabled and older people, and the funds available to meet those needs, according to an influential committee of MPs.
The report by the Commons health select committee makes it clear that there is a substantial and growing social care funding gap.
Although the Social Care report focuses on older people’s needs, it says that many of its recommendations – and the funding gap – also apply to younger disabled people.
Only last month, the Liberal Democrat care services minister Paul Burstow told the committee there should not be a social care funding gap because of extra money invested by the government, and the “efficiency gains” expected of local authorities.
The Department of Health later clarified in writing to the committee that it believed there was “unmet need” but that the scale of it was “difficult to precisely define and measure”.
But it still insists that an additional £2 billion-a-year government funding for social care by 2014-15 combined with the “efficiency gains” local councils are being asked to make mean there is no social care funding gap.
But the committee’s report concludes: “The weight of evidence that we have received suggests that social care funding pressures are causing reductions in service levels which are leading to diminished quality of life for elderly people, and increased demand for NHS services.
“Although the transfer of £2 billion from health to social care is welcome, it is not sufficient to maintain adequate levels of service quality and efficiency.”
As well as calling for more funding, the report says the government should move towards a more integrated NHS care and social care system, particularly for older people.
The report says that disabled and older people often need to access social care, health, housing and other services at the same time, but that these services are “fragmented” and frequently hard to access, with “inadequate links between them”.
The report also says the government’s progress on integrating services has been “disappointing”, and there needs to be a “dramatic strengthening of its commitment” in this area.
And it calls for a new single process for commissioning health, social care and housing services in each local area.
Burstow said: “We know that urgent reform of the care and support system is needed.
“We will be responding to this report and the Dilnot Commission [which reported last year on the funding of long-term care] this spring, with full proposals for reform of adult social care in a white paper and [a] progress report on funding reform.”
He said that integrated care “should be the norm”, that the government was continuing to “create the legal and financial conditions for more integration”, and that the report was “an important contribution to the debate”.
8 February 2012