People over the age of 40 should be asked to pay a ‘social care premium’ to help plug a multi-billion pound funding gap in the sector, according to MPs.
A report published on Wednesday by Parliament’s select committees on health and local government warned the deficit in social care funding will reach up £2.5 billion by 2019/20, leaving the system “under very great and unsustainable strain”.
To tackle the problem, individuals and their employers should pay into a dedicated and audited social insurance fund, the research recommended.
However, the premium would only be paid by those over the age of 40 - and extended to those over 65 - in order to “ensure fairness between the generations”.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health and social care committee, said the government “can no longer delay finding a fair and sustainable settlement for social care”.
“Too many people are being left without the care and support they need and it is time for decisions to be made about how the costs are shared,” she added.
The report called for wider reforms to be introduced at local and national level in order to eventually make personal social care - including help with washing, dressing and eating - free to everyone who needs it.
In the meantime, free support should be extended to those with “critical” needs, MPs said.
“The social care system is in a critical condition and there is an urgent need for more funding both now and in the future to ensure people are properly looked after,” said Clive Betts, chair of the housing, communities and local government committee.
Calling on the government to build a consensus around the need for a social care premium, the Labour MP added: “We heard during the inquiry that people would be willing to pay more if there was an absolute guarantee that the extra money would go on social care.”
The report - which also suggested an additional levy on inheritance tax as a method of plugging the social care funding gap - has been welcomed by charities.
MS Society director Genevieve Edwards said the research “adds to mounting evidence that the care crisis cannot continue to be ignored”.
“We welcome the committees’ call for short term funding and a system that meets the needs of working age adults as well as older people,” she added.
“The government must now come up with an ambitious set of proposals to fix social care, with the funding to match. Without proper government investment, people with MS will keep paying the price for a system in crisis.”
Meanwhile James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said the proposals would “boost funding without unfairly penalising working-age disabled people”.
“Changes also need to go beyond simply plugging the funding gap,” he said. “Social care must be modernised so that it works for everyone who needs it.”
A government spokesperson recognised that the social care system is “under pressure”, adding that it is “committed to reforming it to ensure it is sustainable for the future”.
“Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and any reforms must be aligned - that’s why our forthcoming Green Paper will be published in the autumn with the NHS plan,” they said.
“We have provided local authorities with £9.4 billion in dedicated funding for social care over three years and will agree a sustainable funding settlement at the forthcoming spending review.”