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MPs warn of 'price first, quality second' approach to social care

Social care standards are being driven down by a lack of adequate funding, MPs have warned.

The Commons Communities and Local Government Committee said the financial situation is now "very seriously" impacting on the quality and quantity of adult social care provision as it called for a major cross-party review of how to pay for the service in future.

The report states that a lack of resources has led councils to increasingly take a "price first, quality second" approach in their commissioning of social care, with some authorities paying as little as £2.24 an hour for residential help for those in need of support.

MPs found that Chancellor Philip Hammond's pledge to provide an extra £2 billion for social care over the next three years did not go far enough and the Government should consider ring-fencing levies from income tax, or a compulsory new social insurance scheme, to cover increasing costs.

The committee said all options should be looked at, including redirecting some of the resources that now go into age-related expenditure such as funding for the triple lock pension guarantee, winter fuel allowance and free prescriptions.

The committee said funding levels meant councils were in "panic mode", providing help to fewer people, and that the deterioration in overall care quality was set to continue.

Care levels are becoming the minimum required for a person to get through the day, MPs said.

The report found that more than a quarter, 28%, of care services are inadequate, or require improvements, and just one in 12 adult social care directors are fully confident that their local authority will be able to meet its statutory duties in 2017-18.

More than a quarter of care workers, 27%, received no dementia training, and 24% of those who administer medication are not trained to do so, the report stated.

The committee found that 96% of people paying for their own care are charged an average of 43% more than the cost of state funded residents in the same home, for the same level of care, due to providers being "pushed to the brink of financial viability".

Committee chairman Clive Betts said: "The lack of adequate resources is driving down the level of care and the number of people care is being provided for.

"We heard mounting concerns about the serious impact which inadequate funding is having both on the quality and on the level of care which people receive.

"We heard compelling evidence of acute threats to care providers' financial viability and an increasing reliance on unpaid carers.

"It is clear there are also severe challenges in the care workforce, with high vacancy and turnover rates, and low pay, poor employment terms and conditions, lack of training and inadequate career opportunities the norm across the sector.

"A long-term fix, working on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, is urgently necessary."

The committee called for better integration in social care provision and more protection for workers in the sector.

A Government spokeswoman said: " We recognise the challenges councils face in delivering social care and the need for a long-term sustainable solution. That's why we're giving councils an extra £2 billion to help deliver these services, taking the total to £9.25 billion over the remainder of this Parliament.

"It's also why we're committed to having a fair and more sustainable way of funding adult social care for the future, especially given people are living longer. We'll be setting out our proposals in a forthcoming green paper."

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent providers of adult social care, said he hopes the Government "will give maximum consideration" to the recommendations in its forthcoming green paper.

He said: "The report reflects exactly what our members are telling us, namely the need for adequate funding in order to provide the care packages, training and sustainability of services.

"The conclusion of this report cannot be disputed, the Government needs to stem the financial crisis in adult social care. The sector is ready and waiting to work with the Government to find a resolution that focuses on outcomes."

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