Deaths in social care settings from coronavirus have demonstrated the urgent need for a complete overhaul of the care system straightaway, campaigners said.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) says it is vital that reform of social care starts as soon as the danger of Covid-19 is over.
It says a time-limited expert-led task force should be set up now to begin rebuilding social care so that it is never again placed in the same perilous situation it is in now.
ICG chair, Mike Padgham said: “There can be no more delays, we have to see action on social care reform and we have to see it now.
“Social care staff have performed amazingly during the pandemic and deserve to be recognised and rewarded properly in the future, enjoying parity with their NHS colleagues.”
The ICG also calls for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to waive registration fees for the next 12 months and for social care to be zero-rated for VAT – both measures that would help struggling care providers immediately.
Longer term, amongst a number of things, the ICG wants to see:
• The total integration of NHS healthcare and social care
• Social care free at the point of need, funded through taxation or National Insurance
• Direct financial support for care providers during the current pandemic paid through CQC
• A commissioner for older people and those with Learning Disabilities in England
• A national career pathway and salary framework for care staff
• Professional registration for care staff
• A properly-costed national rate for care fees
• Needs-based continuing healthcare (CHC) payments
• A Covid-19 bonus for all frontline care staff.
Mr Padgham added: “Much still needs to be done to help all social care providers with PPE, testing and financial support and we have to remain vigilant to avoid a second spike in cases. If we keep up the pressure we will get through this.
“But the real priority now is to get started urgently on a complete reform of care.
“During this pandemic we have seen in the most horrific fashion, what happens when social care and NHS healthcare are not properly integrated. Chronically under-funded and under-resourced, social care was not in a position to cope with a pandemic and has been brutally exposed.
“Care providers had no capacity to respond to covid-19. Almost £8bn has been cut from local authority care budgets since 2010 and that has left care and nursing homes and homecare providers seriously depleted. We have to start the process of rebuilding social care straight away so that we are never put in this deadly position again.”
The task force must be independent-sector-led and should include industry experts like Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, Jane Townson, Chief Executive Officer with the United Kingdom Homecare Association, Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, Nadra Ahmed, Chairman of the National Care Association and Richard Humphries, Senior Fellow, Policy, with the King’s Fund.
Mr Padgham says questions will need to be answered about the Government’s response to Covid-19 for care providers and whether enough was done to protect them, quickly enough.
“There are many issues, like the speed of lockdown, the availability of personal protective equipment and testing and the financial support given to care providers, which will need to be examined and we will need a public inquiry,” Mr Padgham added.