Starved social care services putting STPs at risk

Adult social care in England is facing a funding gap of at least £2bn, and requires new money from the government to be “robust” enough for STPs to meet targets in providing and improving community care, a report by charity the Health Foundation has revealed.

The report released today analysed plans to reform health and social care in England and found that reductions to social care budgets had left 400,000 less people receiving essential support, and that the social care precept allowing councils to raise tax to support social care was still “insufficient” to prop up the failing sector.

The report has added more pressure on chancellor Phillip Hammond to announce new funding for social care in the Spring budget next week, which will confirm the direction that budgets will go in for the year and could be critical to the future success of integrated health and social care plans.

The Health Foundation noted that only 25 of the 44 STPs formally state their social care funding position, “But where STPs directly discuss social care, the lack of funding is seen as a key risk to the plans to reform the health and care system”. These include risks to hospital efficiency through delayed transfers of care and potentially avoidable emergency admissions to hospital.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “The NHS is working hard to transform services and deliver £22bn of efficiency savings.  But those efforts are at risk without extra funding for social care. 

“The health service’s own figures suggest that social care needs £2bn of extra funding for next year, in line with other research. The case for funding social care could not be clearer. 

“The clear message from local NHS plans is that without extra funding for social care, the proposals to transform care and improve efficiency will be put at risk.”

The LGA commented on the news by saying it should come as a new warning to the government that social care was at serious risk of completely breaking down should they continue to run on low budgets.

The LGA’s community wellbeing board chairman, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said: “With social care on the brink of collapse, we fully support the findings of the Health Foundation and the call for government to announce new, long-term sustainable funding in next week's Budget.

“Councils see STPs as an important vehicle in redesigning local care and health services to improve health and wellbeing, and the quality of care.

“But we will be unable to achieve this without genuinely new money for social care. It is only by properly investing in social care that we can alleviate the pressures on the NHS.”

Cllr Seccombe also echoed the findings in the report that the social care council tax precept was not enough to protect public services for elderly and vulnerable people in the community in the future.

She added: “The social care funding crisis needs a long-term, sustainable solution, not short-term fixes that merely paper over the cracks in the system.

“Genuinely new government money is now the only way to protect the services caring for elderly and disabled people and ensure they can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives in their own community, while reducing pressures on hospitals.”

Margaret Willcox, president elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), agreed with the LGA’s call for funding, saying:  “STPs are key to starting and achieving the transformation of health and adult social care to support people as active citizens, prevent ill health and reduce demand on hospitals by delivering care closer to people’s homes. Social care is critical to that.

“We welcome the Health Foundation’s briefing on the social care funding gap. With care homes closing, councils projecting in-year overspends of almost £450m, and the cost of the welcome National Living Wage, if STPs are to succeed it is vital that the funding crisis in adult social care is addressed to enable their implementation, as this report highlights.”

Willcox concluded by calling on the chancellor to provide money for councils to support social care, saying: “This will help to ensure STPs are successful by providing dignified care to thousands of older and disabled people and their families who are struggling to manage with services currently in significant and increasing jeopardy.”

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