High-quality care is critical to the well-being of some of the most vulnerable adults in society. Yet levels of unpaid care remain high, too many adults have unmet needs and forecasts predict growing demand for care. The lack of a long-term vision for care and short-term funding has hampered local authorities’ ability to innovate and plan for the long term, and constrained investment in accommodation and much-needed workforce development. In a vast and diverse social care market, the current accountability and oversight arrangements do not work. The Department currently lacks visibility of the effectiveness of care commissioned and significant data gaps remain. As such, it cannot assess the outcomes achieved across the system and whether these are value for money.
COVID-19 has focused attention on social care as never before. It has highlighted existing problems with social care and emphasised significant gaps in the Department’s understanding of the market. However, we have also seen substantial efforts from those across the sector to deliver these essential services in such challenging circumstances. The Department has recently taken steps to increase the capacity of its teams; address data gaps, with local government and care providers; and strengthen system accountability and assurance. This renewed focus, impetus and collaborative approach must be capitalised upon when the government finally focuses on the long-awaited social care reforms.