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Minister rejects social care funding gap

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Care minister Jackie Doyle-Price has rejected evidence of a funding gap in social care and said “austerity is the mother of invention”.

Speaking during an opposition day debate on social care today, Ms Doyle Price also said it was “right” that councils face “consequences” if they do not reduce delayed transfers of care from hospital attributable to social care, adding that the government would move to control how funding is be spent if targets were not met.

The Labour motion called for the Conservative Party to abandon its manifesto pledge to protect up to £100,000 of a person’s assets from social care costs, a policy dubbed the “dementia tax” by much of the media.

The motion also calls for the government to remove the “threat” to withdraw funding from councils that did not meet delayed transfer targets set in July.

Despite an extra £2bn being made available in the Spring budget and an option to impose a social care council tax precept of 3% in each of the next two years, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services annual survey found councils were planning to make savings of £824m in 2017-18, taking cumulative cuts since 2010 to £6.3bn.

When asked to accept there is a social care funding gap of almost £900m this year, Ms Doyle-Price said: “I don’t accept that gap. It has been hard for local authorities in recent years but as one local authority leader said to me austerity is the mother of invention. I agree, councils have been able to innovate to implement savings.”

Communities secretary Sajid Javid and health secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote a joint letter to 32 councils on 10 October, seen by LGC. It warned them they were in the bottom quartile for delayed transfers of care per 10,000 of the population and in relation to reduction targets set in July.

It said: “We reserve the right to reduce the published allocation for a council should performance continue to fail to improve.”

When challenged by shadow minister for social care Barbara Keeley on the logic of imposing “fines” on councils over delayed transfers, Ms Doyle-Price said: “It is right that there should be consequences for those councils that fail to improve.

“The money will be retained by local government and we will be directing spending to achieve the outcome the money was intended for. That is what we should be doing as a government – to ensure value for money.”

Ms Doyle-Price said the forthcoming social green paper would contain a range of proposals, including caps and floors on costs. She added it would be aimed at stimulating a debate on the issue with a view to reaching cross-party consensus on reform.

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