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Well intentioned but one fundamental flaw

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The long awaited white paper on care and support set out a platform for a reformed social care system, but without tackling the fundamental funding issue it doesn’t go far enough.

No one would deny that the intentions are positive. Indeed, the white paper builds on the sector-wide consensus around the recommendations of the Law Commission and Dilnot Commission and offers plenty for councils to work on with the government through the draft bill. It also picks up on the arguments we made in our ‘Ripe for Reform’ paper about the importance of promoting wellbeing and strengthening communities.

It recognises, as local government has long agreed, the importance of giving people more personalised care, with choice and control over how their support needs are met. It also rightly emphasises investment in preventive measures that ensure people receive help before reaching crisis point, which can reduce demand for more intensive and costly support in care homes or stays in hospital.

Future sustainability means looking at how resources are used across all departments including the health, leisure, housing and benefits systems

Councils and their partners are best placed to develop stronger community support for older and disabled people. Up and down the country councils are already playing their part in developing social capital to help people stay in their homes longer.

But the case for reform is not just about ensuring people receive the care they rightly deserve. It’s also critical to the country’s economic future. Care is big business and needs a growing workforce. The white paper goes some way to mitigate against this growing cost by introducing minimum training standards for care workers and doubling the number of care apprenticeships to 100,000 by 2017.

However, debate around the way services are delivered is likely to be overshadowed by the fundamental question around how care will be funded. The white paper doesn’t address the reality of the immediate and growing funding crisis in adult social care and the subsequent huge financial pressures councils face, and this must be of serious concern.

We know councils must cut costs and boost efficiency wherever possible. Indeed, many councils have already done so and many plan to do even more. But the social care funding crisis cannot be fixed through more shared services or reducing council overheads. Serious and real reform must include an honest appraisal of what a modern social care system costs and how it is to be funded.

In a time of economic hardship the answer has to lie in using the totality of our resources. Future sustainability means looking at how resources are used across all departments including the health, leisure, housing and benefits systems.

We know that pooling budgets across service providers, consolidating strategic leadership and devolving responsibility to local areas can improve outcomes and reduce costs. Councils have demonstrated this by using community budgets to deal with troubled families, and the four whole place pilots are providing strong evidence that investment in prevention and better integration can create significant savings in NHS budgets.

Local government is united about the way forward and is ready to play its part. The government now needs to work with us to implement and fund the reforms needed to ensure we have the social care system this country desperately needs.

Carolyn Downs, chief executive LGA

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