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Care Bill provisions 'in jeopardy' as funding falls short

Money to fund social care reforms for elderly and disabled people could end up being spent on bureaucracy, a group of charities and councils has warned.

The consortium of care bodies has stated there could be a £135m shortfall in new money being given to councils to implement the Care Bill, which is going through its second reading in Parliament today.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the Better Care Fund (BCF) – formerly the Integration Transformation Fund – money earmarked for joint work between health and social care, such as seven-day services to support patients being discharged from hospital, could end up being spent on introducing carers' assessments, implementing safeguarding boards and setting new eligibility criteria.

The BCF and the Care Bill have been described as having the “potential” to “transform” services for the benefit of individuals and local government, and the Care Support Alliance (CSA) has supported both throughout their development.

But, according to the associations, the government is reducing that potential by part-funding one with the other, and forcing local areas to make difficult choices between implementing the Care Bill and progressing valuable joint working. This has, in turn, led to concern and confusion amongst health partners that the Care Bill could end up being funded from money otherwise used for acute services.

Richard Hawkes, chair of the CSA, said: “The Care Bill has the potential to be a landmark piece of legislation, transforming the social care system. However, the success of the Care Bill will be jeopardised unless it is matched with a sustainable funding solution so that older and disabled people who need care can get it.”

In the period of the current Parliament, local government's core funding is estimated to have fallen by 40% and councils have made £20bn worth of savings. As a result, councils have had to reduce adult social care budgets by £2.68bn over the last three years.

Cllr Katie Hall, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said:“It would be a tragedy if insufficient funding created a barrier for local authorities to carry out the changes that the Care Bill is designed to bring and we are in real danger of the good intentions of the Bill being jeopardised if the government does not properly fund these reforms.

“The Care Bill is a real opportunity to make the care system fit for the 21st century. We are calling for government to work with us to ensure that our shared ambition for a care system which meets the needs of Britain's elderly is not compromised.”

Therefore, with the Care Bill entering its final stages in Parliament, the LGA, CSA and the Association for the Directors of Social Services, and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) have called on the government to support a joint amendment that will give the Care and Support Reform Programme Board – comprised of local government, the wider care sector and the Department of Health – the opportunity to feedback on whether the money being made available is the right amount to implement the provisions in the Bill. The amendment already has cross-party support from 12 MPs.

The February/March 2014 edition PSE includes a special focus on integrating care and the Better Care Fund. Subscribe here.

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