Social care system 'not fit for purpose' say nine out of 10 MPs - survey

A new poll suggests that nine in 10 Members of Parliament do not believe the social care system is fit for purpose
A new poll suggests that nine in 10 Members of Parliament do not believe the social care system is fit for purpose

Nine in 10 Members of Parliament do not believe the social care system is fit for purpose, a new poll suggests.

A survey of 101 English MPs found that only 10% believe the current social care system is suitable for the UK's ageing population.

The research, carried out by older people's charity Independent Age, also showed just 13% of Labour MPs and 35% of Conservative MPs believe that social care services in their constituencies are fit for purpose.

"Confidence that the social care system can deal with the UK's ageing population has virtually evaporated among parliamentarians," said Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age.

"The crisis in social care was front and centre in the election earlier this year, and it is clear from this poll that there is an overwhelming desire from politicians on all sides for the Government to work towards a cross-party consensus on a solution.

"The problems in social care are about more than simply finding new bits of money to pump into a system that isn't fit for purpose. To meet current and future demand, we need to take a radically different approach, recognising the status quo has failed.

"The Government has promised a consultation on social care, but to work this must set out a long-term vision for health and care that has support from across the political divide. It must also lead to a lasting settlement that better integrates health and social care services and is sustainable over the years to come."

Commenting on the poll, former health minister Norman Lamb, who is Liberal Democrat health spokesman and chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, said: "The health and care system in England is creaking at the seams.

"An unprecedented number of older people need support in later life but are finding high-quality care is hard to come by. Patients are suffering from longer waiting times in the NHS, while there is evidence that the rationing of treatment is becoming more commonplace.

"The Government simply cannot afford to put off finding solutions to these problems. Without lasting reform, the most vulnerable frail and elderly people are at real risk of falling through the gaps and not getting the support they expect and deserve.

"While ministers have promised a green paper on the future of social care, this falls short of the fundamental review of the entire health and care system that we desperately need.

"That's why I have been working with Independent Age and a coalition of healthcare organisations to urge the Government to work with MPs from all parties, experts from across the sector, and with older people and their families to help build a sustainable health and social care system that ensures everybody can get the treatment and support that they need."

Separate research conducted by the Centre for the Modern Family - a think-tank created by life, pensions and investment company Scottish Widows - found that only 15% of people are saving money on a monthly basis to pay for future care needs.

And a quarter said they have "no idea" how they would cover such care costs.

The poll of more than 2,000 British adults also found that many under-estimate the cost of social care.

On average, UK adults estimate that residential care would cost £549 a week - when in reality it costs on average £866 for a place in a nursing home, the Centre said.

Meanwhile, another poll carried out by carehome.co.uk found that four in 10 of care home residents do not receive regular visits from friends and family.

A total of 1,154 care home owners, managers and staff were asked to estimate the percentage of residents that do not receive regular visits, with 42% being the average figure given.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "This Government is absolutely committed to improving social care in this country, which is why we have provided an additional £2 billion for the sector, introduced tougher inspections to keep driving up standards and committed to consult on the future of social care to ensure sustainability in the long term."

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "It is encouraging to see so many MPs across all political parties recognising the need for action to find a sustainable solution to the adult social care funding crisis.

"The extra £2 billion for social care over the next few years is a step in the right direction, but it is only one-off funding which reduces each year. Vital services caring for elderly and disabled people still face an annual £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020, which will continue to grow.

"It is absolutely critical that the Government brings forward its green paper on the future of social care and works with local government leaders to address the issue of long-term funding and also create the conditions necessary to ensure the development of the right kind of care and support services."