Councils Urged To Hand Over Care Cash To Charities

Councils should be forced to spend a set amount of their funding on buying services from charities and social enterprises, the care services minister, Ivan Lewis, said today.

Such a move might be the only way to ensure that people in every community had access to the kind of advice and advocacy that voluntary organisations were often better able to provide, the minister said.

Lewis was speaking at the launch of a new report by the IPPR thinktank on reform of the care and support system for older and disabled people. He said every user of services and every carer, whether state-funded or self-funding, should have access to advice and advocacy.

Asked how this could be ensured in areas where voluntary-run independent living centres were closing or struggling to survive, he replied: “I think there is a really strong and growing case for saying that you have to top-slice an amount of money from local authorities and give it to the voluntary sector.”

Recognising that the idea was highly controversial, the minister pointed out that there was a precedent: as part of the 1993 community care reforms, the then Conservative government had required English councils to spend 85% of their funding on buying care in the private and voluntary sectors.

The proposal could not be implemented in the short term, Lewis cautioned. But it might be possible to raise the general issue of “some ring-fencing of money” for the voluntary or third sector as part of the next comprehensive spending review process, which starts next year.

“There is no doubt that there are issues to do with health inequality and social exclusion where sometimes the third sector is far more likely to achieve objectives and outcomes than statutory agencies will ever be able to,” the minister said.