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Margaret Willcox: Move on social care funding is woefully inadequate

Margaret Willcox
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The local government finance settlement has failed to seriously address the crisis in social care funding and is woefully inadequate.

Allowing councils to bring forward the precept will not reduce the huge funding gap and masks the reality that there is no genuine extra money for councils this Parliament.

Using the social care precept is not a panacea; it raises less in areas with the greatest need and raises less than two thirds of this year’s calculated cost of the national living wage.

While we welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the need to address the crisis in social care funding, the precept is a short-term approach which has ignored the evidence from respected experts.

The Care Quality Commission, the National Audit Office, the Health Select Committee, professional bodies, charities, care providers, independent experts and leading figures in the NHS all say the government is putting the care of thousands of older and disabled people in increasing jeopardy.

Funding cuts to councils’ adult social care budgets - a cumulative total of £5.5bn since 2010 - mean the quality of care is compromised. Significant shortfalls in budgets for this and next year need to be addressed immediately in order to stabilise the sufficiency and quality of the market. Our autumn statement submission showed that at least £1.6bn is needed next year to maintain care at current levels.

Our recent survey should be a catalyst for action. It shows that three quarters of councils are overspent by nearly £450m, before winter hits, making the funding gap even bigger. At the same time 42% of councils have experienced the closure of at least one home care provider in their area in the past six months, rising to 62% for residential and home closures, while more than half have had home care providers hand back contracts.

This winter and throughout next year we will inevitably see more older and disabled people not getting the care and support they rely on to survive each day, an even greater toll being placed on the 6.5 million family members and other carers, increasing delays in the NHS, and even more care homes closing and growing gaps and failures in the care market.

The situation is made worse by pressures from the NHS. This includes two thirds of directors having discussions about cuts to NHS-funded continuing healthcare and more than half reporting both increased demand for healthcare activity to be undertaken by social care staff, and increased demand from people with very high needs not being admitted to hospital.

The settlement is not sufficient to stabilise a care market in crisis, recruit the front line care workers needed, or ease the pressures on our hospitals, but most of all, it is not sufficient to provide older and disabled people and their families with dignified, respectful care.

The government needs to act immediately by bringing forward the funding needed to ensure that older and disabled people can get the care and support they need, both now and in the future. Adult social care can’t afford to be treated as the elephant in the room.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services is always keen to help explore potential solutions with government and our call for adult social care to be protected like the NHS has just got louder; failure to listen will have dire consequences for people whose care needs continue to grow.

Margaret Willcox, vice-president, Adass and director of adult social services, Gloucestershire CC


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