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29 July, 2020 Open access

COVID-19 pandemic has shown the ‘tragic impact’ of successive governments having delayed much needed social care reform, say MPs

Social care sector has been treated as 'poor relation' of NHS and urgent reform is needed to put it on a sustainable footing after years of under-funding

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shown the 'tragic impact' of successive governments having delayed much needed social care reform, the Public Accounts Committee has said.

In a new report, Readying the NHS and social care for the COVID-19 peak, the Committee points out that for many years it has highlighted the need for change in the social care sector and that, despite numerous white papers, green papers, consultations, and independent reviews over the past 20 years, meaningful integration of health and social care is yet to occur. The increased demands on the sector caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, the Committee says, has served to demonstrate - 

'... the tragic impact of delaying much needed social care reform.'

Charging the government with treating the social care sector as the 'poor relation' of the NHS, the Committee notes that, while the NHS was able to meet overall demand for COVID-19 treatment - 

'Unfortunately, it has been a very different story for adult social care, despite the hard work and commitment of its workforce. Years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms have been compounded by the Government’s slow, inconsistent and, at times, negligent approach to giving the sector the support it needed during the pandemic.'               

As a result, reiterating the need for urgent reforms to put social care on a sustainable footing after years of under-funding, the Committee recommends - 

'After years of promises and false starts, we expect the Department to set out in writing to us by October 2020 what it will be doing, organisationally, legislatively and financially, and by when, to make sure the needs of social care are given as much weight as those of the NHS in future. We will be challenging them on this at future sessions.'

For more information see 'Slow, inconsistent and negligent approach' to social care in pandemic from