The future of adult social care

Social care is not simply a set of services, it is about supporting people to live the lives they want to lead. It is used in every community when needed to enable adults of all ages to grow and sustain their wellbeing.


Everyone should be able to live the life they want to lead; to feel human.

In this way, social care is common to us all.

Our response to the Government's social care plan

Our new briefing sets out the LGA's response to different parts of the government's plan for health and social care. We recognise that councils will have their own concerns and questions following the publication of the Plan and we want to ensure that our work best reflects those. Therefore, if there are points you wish to raise with us, please contact us at: ASCreform@local.gov.uk

Learning from the pandemic

Over the last year, social care has demonstrated that it is not simply a set of services some people need because of age or disability, but is a key means by which people are supported to live a full life, whatever their circumstances.

That support, spanning different organisations and different people, has shown itself to be inherently local, with councils playing an important role in local leadership and coordination.

But the experience has also shown the consequences of the often hidden nature of social care, historically being ‘done behind closed doors’. The tragic situation in care homes, the disproportionate number of deaths by people with learning disabilities, and the similarly disproportionate mortality of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) care workforce, are just some of the ways that a historic lack of national attention has played out in our communities.

A better future for adult social care must be one of the legacies of COVID-19. We need reform that reflects the following principles:

1. People first and the value of social care

Whatever emerges for social care post-pandemic should be rooted in, and guided by, what works best for people. It must support the realisation of Think Local Act Personal’s ‘Making It Real’ framework for quality, personalised and community-based support. It must also properly reflect the value of social care in its own right; as a way in which we help improve social justice and inclusion, and support people’s freedoms and human rights.

2. The importance of ‘local’

Social care plays a key role in making connections in our local communities between a wide range of public, private, voluntary and community organisations that all work together in supporting people to be well, safe and independent. Links with housing are particularly important so as to support people to remain independent at home and in their community. Councils’ democratic accountability and leadership supports effective partnership working at the local level and the Government should follow this lead by working with local government and its many partners as equals in helping to build resilient communities that are geared towards prevention, wellbeing and public health.

3. Funding

Any additional funding that is made available to social care, whether in the short- or medium-term, should not simply be used for ‘more of the same’ and the pre-COVID-19 status quo. Rather, it should be used to help us move to a more person-centred and preventative model of social care that is rooted in supporting people’s wellbeing in line with the Care Act, supporting the aspirations set out in the NHS Long Term Plan and building resilience in our local public services.

4. Workforce

The future requirements of and for the social care workforce should be a far more prominent consideration for Government, both as a standalone priority and in respect of its links with NHS workforce planning. We need action on pay, training and development, career progression and professionalisation and recognition.

5. Provision and commissioning

Traditional services (such as residential care, domiciliary care and day centres) will continue to have a role to play in the future. But they need to be part of a much broader local offer including smaller, more bespoke providers, micro-enterprises, a vibrant voluntary sector and wider community assets, such as community-owned care, mutual aid and shared lives, that have all played a part in responding to the current pandemic. These help bolster community resilience and their potential to help secure a more preventative approach to wellbeing that supports people to live safely and well at home must be harnessed.

6. Health and integration

NHS services and social care are equally important and decisions and prioritisations about the future of each should reflect that. The needs of one should not be addressed to the detriment of the other and both should unite around embedding a far more preventative approach to wellbeing that works closely with public health and housing.

7. The scope of ‘reform’

Protecting a person from having to sell their home to pay for care is certainly one element of the ‘fairness debate’ at the heart of the question about long-term reform. But it is not the only one. The scope of and ambition for social care reform must be far greater, support adults of all ages including unpaid carers, and have at its heart a commitment to the Care Act wellbeing principle and improving people’s choice and control of the care and support they use to live their best life. Progress must be made quickly.