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Local leaders call for central role in social care review

Councils, unions and NHS bodies have joined together in welcoming the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee’s report into adult social care that called for an urgent review of adult care to be undertaken immediately.

MPs on the committee welcomed Phillip Hammond’s announcement of £2bn over three years for adult social care, but warned that these funds would still be little more than a short-term solution to an increasingly worsening problem.

The report quoted a number of alarming figures, including that fewer than one in 12 directors of adult social care were fully confident that their local authority would meet its statutory duties in 2017-18, amongst other serious problems caused by chronic underfunding.

Today’s news follows a similar pre-Budget report drawn up by the committee earlier in March that demanded the chancellor bring forward £1.5bn from the Better Care Fund to prop up  the declining social care sector.

Councils – review must not be ‘kicked into long grass’

Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, said that the committee were right to call for an urgent review into social care, adding that Hammond’s provision for social care in the Budget was a “significant step,” but, “it will not deal with all short-term pressures and it is not the long-term solution to the funding crisis that we have consistently called for. It is impossible to plan for the long-term without assurances of long-term funding.”

“The government’s commitment in this year’s Budget to publish a Green Paper which explores options for a long-term solution to the social care crisis provides the opportunity to begin a much-needed meaningful national conversation about how, as a society, we should best support people of all ages with care and support needs in our communities,” Lord Porter explained.

“For the Green Paper to be successful, local government leaders must play a central role so that any solutions are workable, affordable, and support the spirit and letter of the Care Act, which councils are fully committed to.”

Lord Porter also repeated a key call from the committee for a review of social care to be broad reaching and “all options on the table”. He added: “The review must look at the increase in numbers of informal carers, the care that is provided to people with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities, as well as care and support for older people.

“This is the only way we will find a solution that ensures our future generations enjoy a care system which doesn't just help them out of bed and get them washed and dressed but ensures they have dignified and fulfilling lives.”

The LGA chairman also pressed the government to be proactive in creating the Green Paper, as he raised concern that previous reviews into social care in the past had repeatedly been “kicked into the long grass”.

“It is vital that political differences are put aside in the interests of real leadership so that we can tackle this crucial public policy question,” he said.

The County Councils Network (CCN) spokesman for health and social care, Cllr Colin Noble, also praised the report for focusing on the fragile state of the provider market.

“Looking longer term, reform must be underpinned by a thorough review of options, exploring the proposals outlined in this report and those put forward by local government,” Cllr Noble argued. “In addition, the government’s needs-based review could provide an opportunity to create a simpler and fairer methodology for distributing council funding, based on the true cost drivers of delivering services.”

At present, counties receive the lowest social care funding in the UK despite facing the most acute demand pressures, Cllr Noble said, although he added that funding alone was not a long-term solution – further linking up of health and social care services was a crucial element to fixing the system.

“It is critical that we continue to work with our local partners to explore new ways of delivering more closely aligned services to ensure quality social care is deliverable in the 21st century,” he said.

“Counties must be empowered by government to build upon their significant track record of delivery and leadership of efficient and effective local services, with the report recommending local authorities have a bigger role in health commissioning.

The STP process is central to this, particularly in complex county areas. In this vein, we welcome the CLG committee’s recommendation that STP boundaries should be reviewed so they better align with local authority boundaries, enhancing co-terminosity between providers, reducing complexity and breaking down barriers to health and social care integration.

NHS Confed – green paper needs wide consensus

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, pressed the importance for a review of social care to be broad and achieve a cross-party consensus based on evidence about how much cash is needed for both health and social care in the long term as well as where this funding will come from.

“With this in mind, we hope the government takes on board the committee’s recommendations in relation to its social care green paper, which we agree should consider the wide range of uses for which social care funding is required including care and support, early intervention and prevention, and the training and development of care staff,” he said.

Though Dickson acknowledged the potential that integration had for delivering services more efficiently and to a high quality, he also emphasised once again that it was not “a silver bullet,” to solve the problem in the future.

“We strongly support the calls made in the report asking for local government and the NHS to continue to work together to shape services for their local populations,” he argued.

“We have been clear that local government and health need to continue to build strong relationships and they need to be equal partners in the development of local Sustainability and Transformation Plans.”

And unison general secretary Dave Prentis added: “Homecare workers are dedicated to ensuring vulnerable and sick people get much-needed support.
“However, they’re struggling to get by on unacceptably low wages with many not even paid for the time spent travelling to care appointments.”
Prentis added that it was good MPs have recognised Unison’s ongoing campaign to get all councils to reward care workers fairly, before urging the government to act or else “the crisis in social care will overshadow everyone’s lives”.

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