Key challenges facing the adult social care sector in England

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In the past 20 years there have been 12 White Papers, Green Papers and other consultations about social care in England, as well as five independent reviews and commissions. Yet little has changed. Doing nothing – or doing very little – has proved a judicious option for policy-makers.

However, the scale of the difficulties facing social care means that doing nothing is no longer an option. Demographic pressures, growing public concern and a system at ‘tipping point’ all mean that action is essential. As we argue in A fork in the road: next steps for social care funding reform, full reform may be better value than trying to maintain the current, flawed system. If so, the key choice – the fork in the road – is between a better, fairer, means-tested system and one that is more like the NHS: free at the point of use for those who need it most.

As a first step in decision-making, A fork in the road argues that policy-makers need to identify which of the problems facing social care they most want to tackle. This briefing paper is intended to aid that process by identifying and exploring those key challenges.