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The prime minister must take the social care crisis seriously

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LGC’s essential daily briefing 

Today’s reorganisation news #1: Bucks districts to vote on two unitaries plan

Today’s reorganisation news #2: Leaders attack Tory MPs over merger call

Today’s government announcement: £7bn housing fund open for bids

Social care has barely been out of the headlines lately – and with good reason. Today saw three prominent Commons select committee chairs come together to call on Theresa May to build a cross party consensus on social care funding. 

But the prime minister has so far been reluctant to acknowledge the scale of the problem. When the autumn statement did not bring the anticipated budgetary relief, Theresa May added insult to injury by suggesting under-performing councils were partly to blame.

Then, in a decidedly underwhelming pre-Christmas appearance before the commons liaison committee, comprising the chairs of all the select committees, Ms May was again at pains to stress she did not think the solution was only about funding. Services needed to do more to integrate, she said.

Clive Betts, chair of the communities and local government committee, responded that greater integration alone could not address the crisis.

It is not clear whether Ms May really does not recognise the scale of the problem or is merely wishing it would go away to allow her to focus on what perhaps feel like more pressing priorities.

The Conservative press has reported that Number 10 blocked the chancellor’s plans to address the social care funding crisis in the autumn statement over concerns an announcement on extra funding would jar with the prime minister’s pledge to help the so-called ‘just about managing’ families. If that is true it fails to acknowledge the immediacy of the crisis, and the fact many of those families may find their difficulties compounded by a lack of adequate social care services.

Writing for LGC today, Alex Khaldi, Capita’s market director for health and social care, warns that without a major funding intervention councils will not be able to meet their statutory obligations and will increasingly have to find ways to share risk with other partners. This could include with patients and service users, the voluntary or independent sectors or the NHS. However, he warns no potential partner will want to prop up an unchanged model, so thinking about partnerships must go hand in hand with reform.

The trouble is time and space to think is often in short supply.

Today LGC reported that one council is resorting to taking a care home in-house in a bid to tackle delayed discharges, citing its superior ability to recruit when compared with the previous private sector partner that was running the home.

Speaking at the Local Government Association’s annual conference on the finance settlement today, LGA chair Lord Porter warned social care would be “the thing that bites this government in the back this year”.

Ms May urgently needs to give social care the attention it deserves.

*LGC would like to apologise for sending out the wrong LGC Briefing yesterday. This was due to technical issues. 

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