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04.11.16

Are social care pleas falling on deaf ears?

Source: PSE Oct/Nov 16

PSE looks at the major asks of a scathing report published by the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, and how they could impact the upcoming Autumn Statement.

There is no more burning injustice in Britain today than older people being denied the care they need to live independently, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust said in a scathing report highlighting the sorry state social care has been left in after “six consecutive years of cuts” to council budgets. 

The report, ‘Social care for older people’, launched another warning that if central government is “unwilling to provide adequate public funding to support the current system”, then it must be honest about what the public can expect from these services. Namely, this would include making the “unpalatable future” of self-funded care clearer to users so that individuals and families have a chance to plan ahead. 

Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund, attributed this to the “failure of successive governments” to reform the social care sector, meaning that putting this historical care debt right will be a “key test” for the new prime minister. 

A long-term strategy 

But Theresa May’s politics are still one of austerity, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how even sophisticated solutions will be capable of tackling the material reality that 26% fewer people are able to get help due to council cuts. 

“The funding outlook for the next five years looks bleak,” the report argued. “The measures announced by the government will not meet a widening gap between needs and resources set to reach at least £2.8bn by 2019. Public spending on adult social care is set to fall to less than 1% of GDP. The potential for most local authorities to achieve more within existing resources is very limited and they will struggle to meet basic statutory duties.” 

Even turning to extra private funding would not suffice, the think tanks said, underlining the need for a robust long-term strategy. “England remains one of the few major advanced countries that has not reformed the way it funds long-term care in response to the needs of an ageing population,” the report added. 

“The Barker Commission, which called for a new settlement for health and social care, is the latest of a number of independent commissions and reviews to set out how this could be achieved. A frank and open debate is needed on how to fund health and social care on a sustainable basis into the future, recognising that a long-term strategy will exceed the lifetime of a single Parliament. A mechanism is needed to secure cross-party consensus on some shared principles of reform.” 

Opportunities in the Autumn Statement 

The LGA said the report confirmed what councils have been saying all along about an urgent need for fresh funding. The chair of its community wellbeing board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, acknowledged that the government had made some strides towards this with the 2% social care precept and the fattened Better Care Fund, but argued this would not be enough to plug growing funding gaps. 

“The growing demand of an ageing population, as well as the increasing costs following the introduction of the National Living Wage, are squeezing care home and domiciliary care providers to the point of collapse,” she added. 

Both Cllr Seccombe and the report called for the government to recognise the scale of immediate care pressures in the upcoming Autumn Statement, such as by “bringing forward the additional Better Care Fund money, accelerating progress towards establishing a single pooled budget for health and social care in all areas by 2020 and developing a workforce strategy”. 

But are pleas falling on deaf ears? Department of Health (DH) guidance issued earlier this year confirmed that the sector would receive £138m revenue funding from the Better Care Fund in 2016-17, falling far short of the £700m requested by the LGA. 

When reacting to the report, however, a DH spokesperson assured that the government is “committed to ensuring those in old age throughout the country can get affordable and dignified care”. 

“That’s why we have introduced landmark reforms to ensure no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care in their lifetime, and why we’re significantly increasing the amount of money local authorities have access to for social care, by up to £3.5bn by 2020,” the department added. 

“Our Care Act gave new rights to carers and we will be publishing a new carers strategy shortly.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The ‘Social care for older people’ report can be accessed at:

W: www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-care-older-people 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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