The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, in a report to be published today, calls on Government to act on funding to restore quality and access in adult social care.
In Yorkshire alone, an investigation by this newspaper revealed last year, authorities were dipping into reserves to the tune of almost £80m to fund budget shortfalls.
Now, as the committee finds that publicly funded social care is shrinking as local authorities struggle with limited resource, there are warnings that more than a million adults aren't receiving the care they need.
“Social care is severely underfunded," said Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, committee chairman, warning that local authorities could ill afford to pick up shortfalls. “Our recommendations will cost money, but social care should be a public spending priority."
Call for free personal care
The peers say £8bn a year is needed to restore care quality and access to 2009/10 standards, with more required in the future as the population ages.
According to the report, 1.4m older people had an unmet care need last year, while public funding had fallen £700m in real terms over seven years.
The committee suggests introducing free personal care, funded through taxes, so those with critical needs can receive help with daily activities, reducing demand for residential care.
“The whole system is riddled with unfairness," said Lord Forsyth, calling for clear proposals through a White Paper rather than a long-overdue Green Paper discussing the challenge.
"Someone with dementia can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for their care, while someone with cancer receives it for free."
The call comes as Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt conceded it was “fair criticism” to say the government has kept the public waiting too long.
“People have been waiting for promises on care for a long time,” she told the Today programme, when challenges over the issue.
And as the committee warns the question over fairness has been ducked, Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group in York and North Yorkshire, warns this must be a priority for the new Prime Minister.
"We keep highlighting the fact that action is needed, but no action is taken and that is inexcusable," he said. "It's gone beyond urgent now, we have got to do something quickly."
Yorkshire's authorities 'dipping into reserves'
An investigation by The Yorkshire Post, published last year, found councils in the region were under-pinning shortfalls by dipping into emergency reserves.
County Coun Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire's executive member for adult social care, warned national funding and policy has not kept pace with challenges in provision.
"We need real progress to be made by Government to find a solution," he said.
And Coun Rebecca Charlwood, executive member at Leeds City Council, said rising budgets for adult and children's social care now accounted for 65 per cent of the authority's net spend.
"We believe the funding is there and it is for the Government to make it a priority, otherwise older and disabled people face a future continuing to not receive the full support they need to live a safe and dignified life," she said.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We have given local authorities access to up to £3.9bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year, and a further £410m is available for adults and children’s services. We will set out our plans to reform the social care system at the earliest opportunity to ensure it is sustainable for the future."