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09.12.15

Government invited to ‘crisis talks’ on social care and BCF

Four health and social care agencies representing providers and commissioners across both sectors have invited communities secretary Greg Clark MP, chancellor George Osborne, the health secretary and other Whitehall departments to urgent talks in face of a “mounting care crisis”.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Care and Support Alliance, Care Providers Alliance and NHS Confederation have co-written a letter to Osborne,  Clark and the health secretary outlining serious concerns about the persistent funding gaps in social care and lack of Better Care Fund (BCF) cash until the end of this Parliament.

Referring to the chancellor’s social care announcements in November’s Spending Review, the letter’s authors said: “Ultimately, the package put forward will not enable us to fill the current gap in funding, cover additional costs associated with the introduction of the National Living Wage nor fully meet future growth in demand due to our ageing population.”

But issues with the BCF are equally dangerous, the leaders from all four bodies argued, despite the chancellor having poured more money into it and opened it to local government.

“The settlement for social care is backloaded with BCF funding not reaching levels of any significance until towards the end of this Parliament. This has significant implications in terms of the vital support needed by older and disabled people and their carers,” they said.

As well as affecting the care system, it would put the delivery of the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Care Act at risk. “That makes no sense for older people, disabled people, their families or for taxpayers,” the letter added.

“We must target resources so that care can be delivered in the places and setting where people need it most in order to support people’s independence and wellbeing. If we do not collectively address the highlighted issues relating to levels and phasing of funding there is the potential for significant and adverse impacts.”

Adverse impacts included a growing pressure on the NHS, with more people admitted to hospital and more delays in discharges. It would also bring care and nursing homes to ruin, especially in areas where providers are predominantly delivering support to state-funded service users.

According to the letter, one of the main sticking points to be discussed with central government also included investigating the fate of the £6bn originally earmarked for the full implementation of the Care Act – before extra money is raised from the social care precept in council tax.

Relating to the precept, the leaders pressed the ministers to give assurances on what steps can be taken to ensure the 2% levy will deliver the money needed to safeguard right and equitable levels of social care.

They also enquired what steps can be taken, given the wider Spending Review settlement for local government, to support councils to address the shortfall.

Responding to the letter, the LGA’s community wellbeing spokesperson, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said the extra BCF funding and the social care precept were positive steps, but added: “However, whilst will go part of the way to helping the social care funding gap, we are concerned that there is no new BCF money next year, with very little money the following year, meaning that the full benefit will not be seen until the end of the decade – despite care for the elderly and vulnerable being at breaking point now.

“Councils, the NHS, care providers and the voluntary sector are united in calling for full funding for adult social care as this is vital to protecting care services and easing pressure on the NHS. If social care remains inadequately funded, the support which helps to keep people out of hospital and in their own homes will suffer, heaping more pressure on our already overburdened NHS.

“It cannot be solely left to local council taxpayers to fix our chronically underfunded social care system. If proper funding for social care is not urgently addressed, essential services will remain increasingly at risk and the full needs of older and disabled people and their carers will not be met.”

But a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government told the BBC that councils already had enough for care services, with the BCF plus social care precept meaning there would be another £3.5bn a year in the system.

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