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Councils and NHS bemoan ‘missed opportunity’ to fix adult social care

Several councils and health bodies have expressed their disappointment at the lack of additional funding for public health in today’s Autumn Statement, calling it a ‘missed opportunity’ to address the current social care crisis affecting the elderly and disabled.

Despite many voices throughout the health care sector calling for extra funds, health did not warrant a single mention in Phillip Hammond’s debut statement as chancellor, with the statement instead focusing on housing, devolution and tax.

This has led to criticism from councils with Solace president Jo Miller calling social care “the elephant in the room”. The number of patients facing delays in hospital discharge due to a lack of authority support has increased by 80% over the past five years, the highest level since records began.

The Local Government Association (LGA) urged the government to treat social care as a national priority, warning that “urgent action” must happen if councils are to stand any chance of protecting services caring for the elderly and vulnerable.

“Extra council tax-raising powers will not bring in enough money to alleviate the pressure on social care and councils will not receive the vast majority of new funding in the Better Care Fund until the end of the decade. Services supporting our elderly and vulnerable are at breaking point now,” said Lord Porter, LGA chairman.

”The Government cannot ignore this crisis. It must recognise why social care matters and treat it as a national priority. If councils are to stand any chance of protecting the services which care for the elderly and vulnerable, this means urgent action to properly fund social care," added Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board.

Research released by Age UK last week found that the number of older people in England who don’t get the social care they need recently reached a new high of 1.2 million, a 48% increase since 2010.

Ray James, the immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), expressed disappointment that the goverment had "plainly ignored" a range of respected voices such as the CQC, the NAO, the Health Committee, professional bodies, charities, care providers and leading NHS figures in not backing adult social care.

"The Government’s failure to provide desperately needed extra funding for adult social care means that this winter and throughout next year we will inevitably see more older and disabled people not getting the care and support they rely upon to survive each day, an even greater toll being placed on the 6.5 million family members and other carers, increasing delays in the NHS, and even more care homes closing and growing gaps and failures in the care market," James commented.

“Money in the last two years of this parliament comes too late to help nearly 2 million people who rely on care and support. We urge the Chancellor to take immediate steps to bring forward the funding needed to ensure that older and disabled people can get the care and support they need each and every day of their lives.”

Concerns have also been raised by NHS figures as high up as Stephen Dalton, interim CEO of the NHS Confederation, who said that the Treasury had missed a “golden opportunity” to ease the current strain on the NHS.

“While the government is right to review long-term spending plans, social care services are in crisis right now,” Dalton said. “Our staff delivering services on the frontline this winter will find it extraordinary that the government has turned a blind eye to the stresses and strains being felt in the health and social care system.

“Relying on a political rhetoric that promises to protect the NHS, but fails to acknowledge that a cut in social care results in a cost to the NHS, is an economic deception.”

Healthcare commentators recognised some promising aspects for healthcare in the statement, such as the announced increase in the National Living Wage (NLW), due to increase to £7.50 from April next year.

However, Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, pointed out that the NLW increase would add “several hundred million” to the cost of care and said that NHS employees would not see the full benefit.

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