Failure to fund could jeopardise social care reforms
Essential social care reforms designed to improve the lives of older people, carers, and disabled people could be jeopardised if the Government fails to fund them properly, local government leaders and charities have warned today.
Councils and the Care and Support Alliance are warning of a £135 million shortfall in new money being given to councils to implement the Care Bill. This means that Better Care Fund (BCF) money earmarked for joint work between health and social care, such as seven-day services to support patients being discharged from hospital, preventing unnecessary admissions at weekends and reducing admissions to residential care, will instead have to be spent on introducing carers’ assessments, implementing safeguarding boards and setting new eligibility criteria.
With the Care Bill entering its final stages in Parliament this week, the Local Government Association (LGA), the Association for the Directors of Social Services (ADASS), the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) – which represents over 70 health and care charities – and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) are calling on the Government to support a joint amendment that will give the Care and Support Reform Programme Board – comprised of local government, the wider care sector and the Department of Health – the opportunity to feedback on whether the money being made available is the right amount to implement the provisions in the Bill. The amendment already has cross-party support from 12 MPs.
The BCF and the Bill have the potential to transform services for the benefit of individuals and local government and the CSA has supported both throughout their development. But the Government is reducing that potential by part-funding one with the other, and forcing local areas to make difficult choices between implementing the Care Bill and progressing valuable joint working, leading to concern and confusion locally amongst health partners that the Care Bill could end up being funded from money otherwise used for acute services.
As a new cost to councils – and in a time of already squeezed social care budgets – it is essential that the Government funds all of the costs associated with the Bill with new money.
In the period of the current Parliament, local government’s core funding will fall by 40 per cent and councils will have to have made £20 billion worth of savings. As a result, councils have had to reduce adult social care budgets by £2.68billion over the last three years. Although local authorities have managed to limit the impact on the essential care services that people rely on, it is inevitable that services will eventually start to suffer.
Cllr Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “It would be a tragedy if insufficient funding created a barrier for local authorities to carry out the changes that the Care Bill is designed to bring and we are in real danger of the good intentions of the Bill being jeopardised if the Government does not properly fund these reforms.
“The Care Bill is a real opportunity to make the care system fit for the 21st Century. We are calling for government to work with us to ensure that our shared ambition for a care system which meets the needs of Britain’s elderly is not compromised.
“We must prevent the cracks already evident in our starved adult social care system from becoming wider. Unless adult social care funding is put on a sustainable footing, social care services and the reforms will remain substantially underfunded and will suffer as a result.”
Sandie Keene, ADASS President, said: “We said when we published our budget survey last year, that the financial situation for social care is bleak, and getting bleaker. It really is crucial that the integrity of the fundamental changes envisioned in the Care Bill is not jeopardised by short change.
“The proposals we are making to the Bill will mean that extra transparency about the true costs of implementation will be built into the process from the very start.”
Richard Hawkes, Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said: “The Care Bill has the potential to be a landmark piece of legislation, transforming the social care system.
“We welcome the commitment to care that’s about wellbeing, not just survival, and care that is preventative, rather than only for people already in crisis.
“However, the success of the Care Bill will be jeopardised unless it is matched with a sustainable funding solution so that older and disabled people who need care can get it.
“The winter A&E pressures, lonely older people, caring families unable to work, and disabled people struggling to live independently are all urgent, challenging issues for this government. But behind them is a simple point: the need to fund councils sufficiently to organise enough care for the people who need this help.”
Dr Jo Farrar, lead on health and social care for Solace, said: “We share the Government’s passion for a modern social care system which has wellbeing at its core. The changes being proposed are rightly extensive, but this means the risk faced by councils and partners is also high.
“If our joint aspiration for world-class care is to be realised these reforms must be adequately funded. Those responsible for delivering the reforms on the ground need to be able to give an informed view about the funding required.
“This will give councils and their partners the additional confidence they need to really embrace this historic opportunity to transform our care system.”