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£2bn social care uplift will ‘buy some time’ but not enough in long term

An additional £2bn has been committed for social care by chancellor Phillip Hammond in the Spring Budget to be distributed over the next three years, with £1bn to be made available in 2017-18.

The news will likely come as a disappointment for many care providers, as it falls some way below the estimated £1.5bn required to support a struggling system which is failing to keep up with enormous demand.

Hammond’s announcement comes after concerted pressure on the chancellor to make more money available, with an LGA poll finding that 78% of the 152 surveyed MPs thought that any additional funding should go into social care budgets.

Speaking at the Commons today in what was largely seen as the last chance to fix the broken social care system, the chancellor said that the money will allow local authorities to act to commission new care packages for public services.

He added that the health and communities secretaries will soon announce measures to identify and support struggling authorities and to push for more integration between health and social care.

A green paper will also be released later this year setting out the government’s proposals to put the system “on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing”.

Hammond argued that his announcement for social care funding will help deliver benefits to healthcare, explaining: “The social care funding package I have announced today will deliver immediate benefit to the NHS allowing it to re-focus on delivering the NHS England Forward View Plan.”

The Budget document also urged councils to build on the approach to the Better Care Fund and work with local NHS colleagues to decide how funding set aside for social care would be spent and ensure best practice is “implemented more consistently” across the country – especially since, according to the chancellor, just 24 councils are responsible for over half of all delayed discharges.

The funding will be supplemented with targeted measures to ensure that areas struggling the most would be able to make the most rapid improvements, particularly in reducing delayed transfers of care between NHS and social care services.

Organisations react to Budget

National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, responded to the Budget by arguing that although the extra funding for social care will “buy some time” for the sector, it would not go far enough in solving the crisis facing both health and social care.

Andrew McCracken, speaking on behalf of the organisation, said: “The current situation remains unacceptable and untenable. We are faced with a long foreseen structural crisis based on a failure to order services around people’s chronic care needs.

“There needs to be a long-term solution which prioritises community-based care. As well as social care, that means investing in prevention, building the primary and community care workforce and enabling funding for the voluntary and community sector.”

McCracken added that the organisation is now looking forward to the green paper, reiterating that failing to tackle the system at large will “continue to sell people short on their health and wellbeing, and will further crush the care system”.

Cash micromanagement ‘a step in the wrong direction’

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGiU, agreed that it was good news that the government has finally listened to councils and made more money available, but acknowledged it was “not nearly enough, of course” since it still falls short of “fundamental reform of care funding and delivery”.

“The bad news is that the focus of this additional money makes that reform harder,” argued Carr-West. “Social care is not just about freeing up hospital beds, it’s about managing the overall wellbeing of the people who live in a place. That connects with health care but also with housing, keeping people healthy, management of public space and local economies.

“That’s why social care can only be delivered by local bodies, not by national agencies. So we need to fund local government to deliver social care but then we need to trust it to spend the money locally across the system in the ways that work best for that area.”

Micromanagement of how the money is spent will be expensive, ineffective and a step in the wrong direction entirely, the CEO added.

Other organisations were less critical, with the chief executive of the British Red Cross, Mike Adamson, praising Whitehall for making “huge progress to finding a sustainable solution” to the health and care system. He called the extra money a “much-needed release of urgent funding” to stabilise the troubled market, and was pleased to see recognition of the need for more strategic reform.

Similarly, Jo Miller, president of Solace and CEO of Doncaster Council, said: “We welcome today’s much needed cash injection for social care which will provide some relief to many local authorities. We now look forward to continuing to work with government, as well as colleagues across the sector, to find a sustainable, long term plan for social care.”

Her colleague Paul Najsarek, Solace’s spokesperson for community wellbeing and CEO of London Borough of Ealing, added that continued investment in a “more devolved, place-based system, focused on prevention, community services and integration” is still key.

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