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The adult social care sector “could soon be on its knees” if urgent measures to address chronic underfunding and poor staff retention aren’t introduced by the end of this year, MPs have warned.

A damning Public Accounts Committee report warns the current system “is in a precarious state”, while adding that “the Department of Health and Social Care has not yet said how it intends to put in place a long-term, sustainable funding regime to meet the ever-increasing demand for care.”

The Committee also questioned whether “the ways that local authorities commission care, and the prices they pay providers, are contributing to the problems within the care workforce”.

They added: “We are also concerned that the move to supporting people with substantive and critical care needs only is contributing to growing levels of unmet need for people with moderate care needs.

“These moderate needs may well grow into substantial or critical needs if support is not given.”

The Committee cautioned the Government against seeing its Green Paper on funding of care as a “cure all” solution, warning the Government must underestimate “the scale of the challenge”.

Committee Chair, Meg Hillier MP, said: “Adult social care needs sustainable funding and a stable workforce. The sector is scraping by and without an explicit, long-term plan backed by Government it could soon be on its knees.

“Levels of unmet need are high and rising; short-term funding fixes are a road to nowhere and the ingrained issues that lead to high turnover in the workforce could be compounded by Brexit.

“Government should not content itself with councils’ ability simply to meet the legal minimum for care provision.

“Nor should it seek solace in measures that risk opening a prolonged debate on the challenges facing the sector. Those challenges are already well-documented, clear and pressing.

“We urge Government to publish this year, and then implement, a credible long-term funding plan for care. This must go hand-in-hand with financial and other support to improve the recruitment, development and retention of the care workforce.

“Skills for Care summed it up when it described perceptions of care work as a minimum wage sector as ‘a source of national shame’.

“This skilled and vital work transforms people’s lives. It could and should be a source of national pride and we urge Government to give swift and serious consideration to the recommendations set out in our report.”

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Low-paid staff are propping up a care system that has no funding, no strategy and no long-term solutions.

“The crisis in adult social care is not a warning for the future, it’s happening across the country right now.

“The government’s one-track mind over Brexit means ministers are ignoring the care disaster that’s right under their noses.”

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