There is a willingness to accept funding solutions for adult social care that have been considered “politically unpalatable or inexpedient” by successive governments, a consultation by the Local Government Association has revealed.
Findings published today following 560 responses to the LGA’s social care green paper released in July include evidence that the public, councils and other organisations are prepared to “coalesce” around tax rises to ensure the system of support is sustainable and there is sufficient investment in prevention and maintaining general wellbeing.
An increase in national insurance contributions was the most popular choice (56%), with changes to income tax the second most popular option (49%).
In what it described as “an important step change” for the organisation, the LGA has for the first time backed particular proposed solutions “to the more thorny issues” relating to long-term funding and called for the government to do the same in its delayed social care green paper, which is due this autumn.
It said the government should make the case for collective or individual increases in income tax, national insurance and a “social care premium”.
The report added: “[There is a] willingness to engage with the questions that need to be posed and, most crucially, willingness to support – or, just as important, accept – the type of solutions that are needed to secure social care, but which may hitherto have been considered politically unpalatable or inexpedient.”
Acknowledging the potential difficulties in implementing these changes, the LGA said this should be accompanied by an effort to build on efforts to raise awareness of social care and its value, as well as making clear how national tax rises for social care would relate to tax increases for the NHS.
The consultation also found the most immediate priority for respondents was paying providers an adequate price for care and additional people needing support.
It also found there was no “clear and widespread” support for introducing a cap on care costs and a floor for protecting assets, as proposed in Conservative party’s manifesto, in the medium to long-term. Free social care was only supported by a slightly higher number of respondents.
The consultation also showed a “clear recognition” of the role of public health, housing and other services in contributing to health and wellbeing.
The LGA is calling for the reversal of £600m cuts to the public health budget between 2015 and 2020.
It also said the £20.5bn recently pledged to the NHS should include the prioritisation of investment in prevention and community and primary health services. Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has indicated local public health and general practitioner services will get a share of the funds.
Another recommendation calls on the government to introduce a new “duty to cooperate” in a bid to ensure NHS organisations fully engage with health and wellbeing boards in the development of local plans to integrate health and care services.
Despite recent short-term cash injections by the government, the LGA said adult social care services are still facing a £3.56bn funding gap by 2025 and called for immediate further investment, particularly to protect a fragile provider market next year.
Ian Hudspeth (Con), chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Now is the time for answers. Every day that is spent further defining the problem and consulting on changes that only really tinker at the edges of the debate, is another day in which people’s lives are not being lived to the full.
“The government needs to be bold in the solutions it puts forward, but it is incumbent upon politicians of all colours to cooperate and be part of a wider movement for change in the national interest.”