News

Social Care – years of failure and a lack of strategy says NAO

A damning report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted short-term funding and lack of a long-term vision for Adult Social Care.

A damning report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted short-term funding and lack of a long-term vision for Adult Social Care as two factors that have hampered planning, innovation and investment into long-term solutions. The current accountability and oversight arrangements are also identified as ineffective for overseeing the care market.

The NAO believes that the failure to deal with England’s social care crisis left the care system significantly weakened, a situation made even worse when the pandemic struck and thousands of people were unable to access the help they needed. Their view is that although the pandemic has focused attention on social care in England, this has simply highlighted shortcomings in services as well as major gaps in the government’s understanding and oversight of the care system.

The public spending watchdog has urged the government to prioritise the setting out of a properly funded plan that will enable the provision of high-quality, sustainable social care and deals with the future demands of the rapidly increasing numbers of vulnerable adults over the next few years.

The NAO says when lockdown came, the lack of a long-term social care strategy meant the system was weakened by years of funding cuts to local authorities, repeated failure to fix workforce shortages, and a lack of central oversight and understanding of the sector’s problems.

“The lack of a long-term vision for Adult Social Care coupled with ineffective oversight of the system means people may not get the care that best supports them,” Gareth Davies, Head of NAO.

Meg Hillier, Chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said:

“Despite government’s repeated promises it had a clear plan for tackling the social care crisis, today’s NAO report shows this is simply not the case. Government has no plan for the workforce, no plan for accommodation, and no long-term vision for social care.”

The NAO report was published just a day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons Liaison Committee that social care reforms were in preparation.

“Do we need a plan to do it, a long-term plan, a 10-year plan? The answer is yes, and the government will be bringing forward our proposals on social care reforms later this year.”

Despite government’s repeated promises it had a clear plan for tackling the social care crisis, today’s NAO report shows this is simply not the case. Government has no plan for the workforce, no plan for accommodation, and no long-term vision for social care

Meg Hillier, Chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee

It’s worth noting that successive governments have repeatedly promised and then failed to deliver reform of Adult Social Care for many years, despite cross-party acknowledgement that a solution has to be found.  Boris Johnson stated that he had a plan to do so when he became Prime Minister in 2019, but as yet this hasn’t been published and even now, any proposals aren’t expected before the autumn.

The full press release from the NAO and a copy of their report are both available on the NAO website.