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Social care should be ‘top priority’ for Autumn Statement

Extra funding for social care should be the “top priority” of the Autumn Statement to avoid a crisis in care for the most vulnerable, the King’s Fund said in response to the LGA’s 2016 report on the state of social care.

In ‘Adult social care funding: 2016 state of the nation report’, the LGA said that councils are still coping with the effects of a £5bn funding gap in adult social care between 2011-12 and 2015-16.

The LGA said that councils need at least £1.3bn immediately to stabilise the provider market, and even if all the government’s additional funding through the social care precept and the Better Care Fund (BCF) was delivered, an additional £1.3bn would be needed by the end of the decade.

Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund, agreed, arguing that spending cuts and the “unwillingness of successive governments” to reform the sector’s funding system “have left social care in a perilous state”.

“It defies all sense and reason that social care spending will slip back to less than 1% of GDP by the end of the Parliament when the number of older and disabled people is increasing and demand for services is rising,” he added.

“This is an unsustainable situation, and the CQC has recently said that the social care market has reached a tipping point. The top priority for the Autumn Statement later this month must be to increase funding for social care. This is a key test of the prime minister's promise of a more equal country that works for everyone.”

Members of the Health Select Committee also wrote to chancellor Philip Hammond this week saying that any additional health funding in the Autumn Statement should be directed to social care first.

In its social care report, the LGA also warned that the government’s funding promises are based on “a set of ambitious assumptions that cannot be guaranteed”.

These include assuming that the number of Band D equivalent buildings will rise by 7.8% a year in all councils, that core council tax will increase by Consumer Price Index inflation, and that all councils will use the maximum precept.

Within the BCF, £800m is expected to be delivered through savings to the New Homes Bonus, which are not guaranteed, leaving the actual amount uncertain.

‘Existential crisis’

In her foreword to the report, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA community wellbeing board, stated: “The situation now is critical and it is no exaggeration to say that our care and support system is in crisis.”

The report includes a handful of quotes and short essays from councils and other health and care organisations voicing concerns over the state of social care, with Humphries himself arguing that the sector faces an “existential crisis” around funding.

An LGA poll also found that 60% of the general public overestimated the amount of the £219bn spending on health and social care that goes to social care, which receives just 11% of the budget. When told the correct amount, 62% of those surveyed thought spending should go up.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “This government is committed to ensuring older people throughout the country get affordable and dignified care. That is why we are significantly increasing the amount of money local authorities have access to for social care, by up to £3.5bn by 2020.”

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