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DHSC concerned about Northamptonshire’s ability to meet statutory responsibilities

Northamptonshire County Council is the only local authority that the Department of Health and Social Care has concerns about when it comes to delivering its statutory care responsibilities, MPs have heard.

Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care told the public accounts committee that other authorities are meeting their statutory requirements.

Committee member Gillian Keegan, Conservative MP for Chichester, said: “You can’t open a newspaper these days without reading about concerns on social care - it’s everywhere.”

Wormald agreed that the sector is under strain, explaining: “I don’t think anyone on this panel, or anywhere else, would deny that this is a sector that faces significant financial pressures.

“It comes out of the National Audit Office report, it also comes out of the CQC report on the state of care.”

He said that it is a cause for concern for the department and that it is aware that action needs to be taken, particularly in the long-anticipated green paper expected in summer.

“In terms of local authorities fulfilling the statutory duties set out in the 2014 Care Act, there is one local authority about which we are concerned - Northamptonshire.”

The concerns come after the cash-strapped council issued a spending ban, and was forced to review its budget proposal following concerns that its initial proposal may have been unlawful.

“Other than that, when we look across the local authority sector they are fulfilling their statutory duty,” explained Wormald.

“Local authorities have been focusing down on their statutory duties and making savings in their discretionary areas.

He added that, despite “quite clear funding challenges” the department feels that there is sufficient funding in the system to fulfil statutory duties.

Committee chair Meg Hillier asked whether plans are in place to “survive the shock” if there is a change to in immigration regulations following Brexit, given the large percentage of social care staff who are EU citizens.

Wormald said that this is something that affects some parts of the country particularly more than others - particularly London, the south east and the south west.

“Both EU citizens, and indeed citizens from non-EU nations, play an extremely important part in the workforce and their contribution is hugely valued,” he continued.

“So far, in terms of national numbers we have not seen a decline in the percentage of the workforce that has come from the EU.”

However, when pressed further he confirmed that the latest figures are not due until summer, but that the department will monitor this, working alongside the Home Office.

Top image: PA Archive

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