What about social care?

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, looks at the exclusion of social care from the government’s recent NHS funding pledge.

The £20bn annual funding increase for the NHS was a bittersweet announcement for people working in adult social care. While the settlement is recognition for its essential contribution to our society, it was extremely disappointing that the “birthday present” didn’t come with an equivalent cash boost for adult social care.

Adult social care and public health services are vital to our nation’s wellbeing and to the long-term sustainability of the NHS. Even with the increase in funding, the NHS must work with social care to turn the curve of rising demand. Community-based care and support services help to reduce the need for people to be admitted to hospital and help people return home quickly and safely. This reduces pressures on the NHS, saving taxpayers’ money.                                                 

Social care is also celebrating its 70th birthday this year (originating in the National Assistance Act 1948) and deserves to be seen as a service in its own right, supporting millions of people to live full and independent lives – not simply through the lens of the NHS. The two services are interdependent and deserve parity of esteem.

Our recent surveys of leaders and cabinet members for social care show that 96% believe there is a major funding problem with adult social care. The public share this concern, with 87% of them wanting more funding for councils to support the sector.

There has never been a more urgent time for action. Many of our services are at breaking point. By 2025, there will be another 350,000 people with high care needs, which is a major challenge to our health and care system.

Without an immediate injection of cash, even more providers will either pull out of contracts or go bust, leading to a lack of available care and a decrease in social care’s ability to help mitigate demand pressures on the NHS.

We know that additional funding would be used effectively to get results. An example of this is local government action on delayed transfers of care (DToC). The latest figures show councils have reduced DToCs due to social care by 39% since July 2017, and at a far faster rate than the NHS.

The lack of a long-term funding settlement for social care, and the government’s disappointing decision to delay its green paper on care and support for older people until the autumn, only serves to fuel the crisis in the sector.

This is why the LGA will be publishing its own green paper on adult social care this summer, to help keep it high on the agenda and drive forward a debate on how to fund the services we want to see in both the short and long term.

In the 21st century, a huge part of the burden of ill health is avoidable, and about a third of all deaths are classed as premature. This is why councils need more funding to invest in prevention and early intervention measures to help reduce the risk of people having their lives shortened by conditions such as heart and liver disease, respiratory illness, and cancer.

There also needs to be an urgent focus on tackling the social determinants of health; wider council services all play a key role in keeping people well and independent, and help prevent them from developing long-term conditions that require care and treatment.

Increasingly, councils are cutting these universal services in order to fund the growing costs of adult social care, which now account for an average of nearly 40% of councils’ budgets.

Ultimately, the government needs to plug the £3.5bn funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 and reverse the £600m reduction in councils’ public health budgets between 2015 and 2020.

These issues cannot be ignored any longer if we want to provide high-quality and reliable care to help people lead happier, independent and more fulfilling lives.

Top image: Dean Mitchell


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