A crisis requires leaders to identify responses decisively and at pace. However, setting aside challenges does not mean they magically disappear. The short-termism necessary at times of crisis means yesterday’s priorities become tomorrow’s problems. Nowhere in the current crisis has this been more evident than in social care.
The suggestion that a ‘protective ring’ was cast around care homes is difficult to swallow. The sector was certainly not given the tools to cope with any kind of financial shock ahead of time. Instead, it entered the pandemic on the back foot, with mounting demand, workforce shortages, a fragile provider market and significant underfunding.
In the absence of political will to drive long-awaited reform, the sector has been dependent on short-term injections of funding. The 2019 Performance Tracker, created by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and the Institute for Government, showed that before COVID, the Government would have needed to spend 11% more over the next five years to continue providing the same quality of care.
And when crisis hit? A recent report from the National Audit Office highlighted a clear lack of understanding from Government regarding the impact of the pandemic on adult social care, and an inability to see the interdependence between health and social care as a two-way street.
COVID-19 highlighted weak-nesses in the sector’s resilience and should act as a catalyst for action to be taken. It will be essential that:
- Reforms are strategically informed, financially sustainable, equitable and underpinned by a clear understanding of the challenges of funding social care.
- Until a long-term solution can be implemented, adequate funding must be provided to put the sector on a financially sustainable footing and enable it to withstand any future shocks.
The shift in public perception of health and care services means there may never be a better time to finally address this consistently thorny issue.
Rob Whiteman CBE is chief executive officer of CIPFA