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The social care saga continues

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LGC’s commentary on prime minister Theresa May’s answers to questions from MPs on social care. 

At a time of giving, prime minister Theresa May this afternoon offered no gifts to councils grappling with the social care crisis.

Appearing before MPs on the liaison committee this afternoon Ms May said she recognised there were “short-term pressures” within the social care system.

The government’s response last week was to offer councils the chance to raise the social care precept by 3% in each of the next two years,  generating up to £652m over that period, and redirecting £240m from the new homes bonus to fund social care services.

Notwithstanding the debate about whether this is almost £900m of new money or not, and that a third of top tier councils actually lose out under the new homes bonus reforms, it doesn’t take a maths genius to work out the government’s proposals fail to fill the Local Government Association’s estimated funding gap pressure of £2.6bn by the end of this parliament.

Ms May went on the offensive.

“It would be wrong to assume the only solution on social care is just about funding,” she told MPs this afternoon. Well no, but it might be a start…

She said there was a “medium-term job to be done” in terms of getting places to better integrate health and social care services.

Communities and local government committee chair Clive Betts (Lab) quoted NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens, who appeared before his committee last week, and said integrating services alone would not ease social care’s funding pressures.

Ms May did acknowledge there was a longer-term issue which had “not been addressed by governments” and added: “For too long they have ducked this issue.”

Ms May then went on to duck the issue. She was asked by Mr Betts if she would commission a major review of social care funding.

“It’s important any decisions taken on social care are going to last into the longer term,” she said.

Ms May did say, however, the government was “already starting internally to look at this issue” which is a start.

She added: “Any proposals that are brought forward we would want to be discussed in parliament and have a look at those. We want to make sure we have got a solution that is going to be sustainable.

“But this isn’t going to be an immediate ‘let’s have a quick review over a matter of weeks and that’s it’.”

So there is not going to be a long-term solution to the social care crisis anytime soon then. The saga continues.

Merry Christmas everyone…

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