The social care green paper must shift the focus from just managing people in crisis, but reform may come too late to save support services from reaching a financial “cliff edge”, the Local Government Association’s care lead has warned.
In an interview with LGC, Izzi Seccombe (Con) said any proposals aimed at ensuring the long-term sustainability of services must include a recognition of social care’s role in preventing ill health and maintaining a good quality of life for both older people and younger adults.
However, she added that investment was needed to stabilise the system ahead of reforms being implemented, as funding pressures and rapidly rising demand mean councils are forced to support fewer people, resulting in increased hospital admissions.
Cllr Seccombe, who is leader of Warwickshire CC as well as the chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “There needs to be an understanding that social care does not stop and start at the hospital door.
“The microscope is on the NHS and how we manage people in crisis but what we are trying to do is to stop people getting into crisis.
“We want to see a key understanding that some of the determinants of health have to be delivered through social care.”
Cllr Seccombe described current funding measures, such as the £2bn announced in the spring Budget and the council tax precept, as “sticking plasters” that will not prevent the social care funding gap reaching £2.3bn by 2020.
She added councils with a high council tax base are not always those with the most critical level of demand on services and there could be lower levels of funding available in the areas that need it the most.
Cllr Seccombe said: “There needs to be investment to bring about change required in the long term and continue to support people now.
“The [£2bn] funding and the social care precept finish by 2020. Are we going to allow that cliff edge?
“We are about to enter a year of uncertainty. I worry that we go through a period of developing that green paper, then it will go to consultation and through a review period – we are going to be up tight to the 2020 line.”
Cllr Seccombe said she welcomed the fact that proposals for the care of working age adults were being developed separately from those for older people.
She added: “There is the ability for the working age adult element to get lost in the greater complexity of older people demand.
”Working age adults are a cost for life. The numbers tend to be about a third of older people receiving care, but the costs amount to nearly a half.
“If by separating it out there is more of a microscope on funding for working age adults then that is a good thing.”
Cllr Seccombe said the LGA had been assured by the government that it would be involved in the green paper’s development, adding local government would bring a “commonsense approach” to the process.
Izzi Seccombe: green paper must shift focus from crisis