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FRONT LINE FIRST - FINANCE

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The Budget is in the past - and the results of the Spending Review 2002 should be published in July. ...
The Budget is in the past - and the results of the Spending Review 2002 should be published in July.

The Budget contained little for local government - but it did place extra pressures on councils.

As everyone knows, the National Health Service will be the main beneficiary from the budget. Some of the extra money for the NHS - about£400m in 2002 - will be made available to enable councils to take up more places

in residential care and nursing homes.

In addition, the government intends to introduce legislation to make councils responsible for the costs of hospital

bed-blocking.

Although a report on the Department of Health's website says the scheme will 'incentivise' social services departments to use 'some of their large 6% real annual increase to stabilise the care home market and find home care services for older people', councils may not see it in this way. Nor is it likely to escape their attention that, on the assumption that the council pay bill for England is about£35bn, the increase in national insurance contributions will cost councils about£300m in a full year: most of the money needed to pay for the new measures for unblocking hospital beds.

Meanwhile, nothing has been done to bridge the gap between what councils spend on the entire range of personal social services and the amount provided in the government's public spending plans - currently about£1bn. Nor has anything been done to resolve a number of the problems in the residential care sector. These include the closure of many homes because the fees councils are able to pay do not enable the homes to run at a profit; the shortage of suitable staff; and the decisions by some private sector suppliers to aim for the top end of the market - providing a high-cost service that councils cannot afford

to buy.

Spending Review 2002 could solve some of the problems, but more than money is needed to resolve the problem of how we care for older people in Britain.

Rita Hale

Director, Rita Hale Associates

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