VODG responds to government’s announcement on social care funding

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (7 September) set out the government’s vision for the future of social care funding.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) said:

“We welcome the step forward in government’s approach to social care – indeed, as the prime minister recognises, “governments have ducked this problem for decades”. The current government has in its power an opportunity to grasp an ambitious transformation agenda which puts people who use services, and their families and carers, in the driving seat of change.

“Current funding is simply not enough to ensure that everyone who needs to draw on social care can access early preventative support, and we are seeing fewer and fewer people able to access these essential services. Neither has funding been enough to guarantee the quality of longer-term support services which have become increasingly under strain.

“We are concerned that government’s approach to policy making could continue to leave disabled people living in England behind, as it has done so throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and we would encourage government to prioritise solutions that work for everyone and enables older and disabled people to lead independent and fulfilling lives, in their local communities.

“The government’s thinking around reform of social care has been older people’s care and selling family homes to pay for care. The funding of older people’s care is critical and there is no question the area warrants urgent reform. Yet the dominance of this focus has distracted from working age disabled people rights and entitlements, as set out in the Care Act. Social care reform must be examined through the lens of disability if it is to be inclusive and fit for purpose.

“The ‘cap and floor’ model, as presented today, will be appropriate for those people with their own assets, but we must not forget the needs of people with less means to pay. There will always be a cohort of people, both working age disabled adults and older people, with insufficient funds or assets to pay for their care. VODG believes that the needs of disabled people and older people must be considered equally and not, for example, reduced to decisions about levels of private wealth.

“COVID-19 has shone a bright light on the valuable role of care and support work. It is, however, a source of deep regret that care services are commissioned at minimum wage levels. A key test for VODG is whether funding reform will enable care and support workers to be lifted out of low pay. A 1.25% national insurance levy on workers will impact on lower paid staff, and this will effectively reduce take home pay. Additional national insurance rises will also increase cost pressures on social care employers. We remain very concerned that commissioning of services is not at pace with the welcome uplifts to the national minimum wage.

“The provision of high quality care and support services to people with life-long disabilities is the hallmark of an equitable society that supports and protects its citizens. This must be rooted in a robust and sustainable social care system that has embedded within in it, investment, and support for voluntary sector service provision.  Today’s announcement is a start, but there remains a long way to go to. We now need the detail on the reform packages to enable disabled people and their families, and support providers, to plan.”