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Social care has reached a tipping point

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Why invest in the problem when the solution is so palpably obvious, says the president of Adass

The figures are stark and, by now, well known but a gentle reminder never goes amiss.

We in adult social care services have had our budgets cut by 26% over the past four years, despite a very welcome additional investment of 5% into our funding by councils, and some equally welcome NHS transfers. Overall though, the loss amounts to some £3.53bn.

According to a recent Adass survey, directors of adult care are becoming increasingly worried about the future. As well as acknowledging current reductions in services and a rise in unmet need, they envisage that 2015-16 – once the general election is out of the way – will be even more dark and austerity driven than the past four.

Earlier this year the National Audit Office said: “The need for care is rising while public spending is falling, and there is unmet need. Departments do not know if they are approaching the limits of the capacity of the system to continue to absorb these pressures.”

Our survey demonstrates beyond doubt that we have reached the point where, as the NAO feared, we are unable to absorb the pressures we have identified.

Integration and the better care fund are not silver bullets sitting in the chamber waiting to bring us instant success with a simple squeeze of the trigger. Integration will, as I’m sure the pioneers will show, provide powerful tools for adult social care and other agencies, particularly the NHS, to streamline and achieve better services for users’ benefit. It will generate savings, I am certain. But it is common sense, not common solvency, that ought to be the driver here.

The better care fund, however, is germane. Local authorities and Adass will already have factored this important sum of money, which is not new money, into their 2015-16 calculations. Any lack of resolve by the Department of Health, the Cabinet or the Treasury, which undermine its value can only lead to far worse outcomes than those already feared, on behalf of vulnerable people, by directors of adult social services.

As for more recent calls to funnel some £4bn extra into the NHS for long-term care: why invest in the problem when the solution – increased investment in social care – is so palpably obvious.

David Pearson, president, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services





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