The care home sector 'entered the pandemic on the back foot'


By Rob Whiteman, CIPFA CEO

A crisis requires leaders to identify responses decisively and at pace. However, setting aside challenges does not mean that they magically disappear. The short termism necessary at times of crisis means yesterday’s priorities become tomorrow’s very real 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 CIPFA and the Institute for Government, showed that before COVID-19, 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 has highlighted weaknesses 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.

This article first appeared in the MJ.

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  • CIPFA recently brought together its resources, insight and solutions regarding social care and these are available via the new Building Sustainable Social Care page. There you will find overall context, how CIPFA can help, and reports, publications and more to help you face the very considerable challenges, even pre-COVID-19, that professionals face. More information and support are still to come.

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