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Social care funding focus questioned after Budget absence

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Concerns have been raised that the forthcoming green paper on adult social care will not address acute funding pressures in adult social care, after the chancellor ignored the issue in the Budget.

There were widespread calls for Philip Hammond to act after the Local Government Association said £900m of the £1.1bn of the extra social care funding provided this year in the March Budget was used to avoid further cuts to existing services rather than new activity to reduce delayed transfers of care. It follows evidence that more people are not receiving the care they need and providers are handing back contracts in increasing numbers.

Now after the chancellor failed to mention social care on Wednesday, while handing the NHS £2.5bn of extra revenue funding over the next two years and £335m to address winter pressures this year, there are fears that no further funding will be made available for social care for the foreseeable future.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Margaret Willcox said members were “extremely disappointed that the government has not addressed the need for extra funding for adult social care”.

“This means that this winter and throughout next year we will continue to see more older and disabled people not getting the care and support – which they desperately need now,” she said. 

Work on the future funding of social care has been taking place since January when the prime minister launched a review, which involved several senior figures being seconded to a team at the Cabinet Office. However, last week cabinet officer minister Damian Green said the green paper, orginally expected this autumn, would not now be published until next summer.

Richard Humphries, senior policy fellow at The King’s Fund, said the delay had put back any potential solution by at least two years.

He added that the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts for low economic growth contributed to the sense that a solution to social care funding pressures is “a long way off”.

Mr Humphries said that while he had been told that the green paper will address aspects of funding, doubts remain over whether the government will be prepared to revisit some long-term but politically difficult options, such as raising taxation or a new model of social insurance.

He added: “That is the 64 billion dollar question. Will the green paper address head on the issue of funding when it has proved so toxic during the election?

“We have been told it will include sustainable funding but it can’t do that without setting out some of the controversial options. They will have to revisit the social care funding position because it will not hold.”

Paul Carey-Kent, policy manager for health, social care and welfare reform at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accounting, said he expected the green paper to focus on “equity” in the system rather than local authority funding.

“I wouldn’t be confident [of action on funding]. We have had this issue for 20 years and no government has tackled it. This government is the least likely to do it because it hasn’t got a majority,” he said.

Mr Carey-Kent added that even councils that are managing to maintain services for older people will need 2-3% real terms growth in funding to keep up with expected demand.

“There is not a lot of prospects for funding being available to meet demographic trends,” Mr Carey said.

Councils will be forced to further focus on their statutory duties to people with the highest needs, alongside a requirement to move people out of hospital quickly due to the government’s focus on delayed transfers of care, he said.

He added: “A million people are currently not getting the help they need. That figure will increase and probably the number of people that get nothing will increase, which will have a knock-on effect on the NHS.

“Councils have prioritised social care over other services but the question is how far can they push that until there is an effect on other services?”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We are committed to publishing a green paper on the future of social care – this will include proposals to place a limit on the care costs individuals face. Details will be set out when it is published.”

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