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Social care Green Paper ‘last chance’ to fix ailing system

The government’s green paper on social care may be the “last chance” to fix an overstretched system, and councils should be given “full flexibility” to decide where the £2bn worth of additional central government funds is allocated, the LGA has stated.

In chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Spring Budget, he announced the new money to ease the pressure on England’s struggling social care services, with just over £1bn to be made available in 2017-18, with a further £674m given in 2018-19 and the remainder of £337m for 2019-20.

Though the funds were welcomed as a short-term option to support overstretched council services, many local authorities and organisations criticised the government for not making enough available, as previous reports suggested that social care needed £1.5bn in the next year alone to get back on its feet.

Ahead of the government announcing guidance for how the money is spent, the LGA has now called for councils to be put in the driving seat of budget allocation for adult social care – arguing that individual councils are better placed to determine which social care services should be targeted for additional funds in their areas.

“The £2bn of extra funding announced over the next three years for social care, while not the solution to the crisis, is a significant step towards helping councils plug some of the social care funding gaps they face in the coming years,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“But we want assurances from ministers that councils will retain full flexibility to decide how best this money is used, so we can provide much-needed care and support for our older and disabled residents.”

Councils know where the pressures are in their local areas better than anyone else, explained Cllr Seccombe, adding that it was essential there were no delays in releasing the money so that councils could provide extra care and maintain the services that would otherwise have been cut as soon as possible.

“Reducing pressures on our hospitals is important, but we must also remember that social care is about much more than just freeing up hospital bed space,” she said.

“It is about providing care and support for people to enable them to live more independent, fulfilled lives, not just older people, but those with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities.”

Whilst new money is a welcome boost to the social care sector, it should not be seen as a long-term solution, but rather a “starting point” for continued reform, Cllr Seccombe continued. “It is critical that the government’s Green Paper on social care includes local government leaders playing a central role in finding a long-term solution that reforms and fully funds our care system.”

For Cllr Seccombe, the importance of developing a long-term plan to build a social care system which does not just help people get out of bed in the morning, but that allowed vulnerable people to live “independent, fulfilling lives in the community”, should be a top priority.

“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade, this is the last chance we have to get this right,” she argued.

PSE contacted the Department for Communities and Local Government, but at the time of writing had not received a response. 

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