Some social care providers have expressed dismay at George Osborne’s missed opportunity to rescue social care in last week’s Spending Review.
Mike Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire), said years of cutbacks allied to huge extra costs facing care providers had pushed the sector to the edge of the abyss.
Mr Padgham fears the 2% increase in council tax local authorities will be able to raise to pay for social care will not be enough to avert an impending crisis.
“The spending review was a huge disappointment for social care and a betrayal of people who rely on others to care for them,” he said.
“Once again, the voice of those who can least speak up for themselves has been ignored and I can only see bigger problems ahead.
“My biggest fears are that firstly, the 2% will not be enough to properly fund social care and that secondly, many local authorities simply won’t do it,” he said.
“We will see a situation where the Government thinks it has solved the problem by pushing responsibility onto local authorities who simply may not react.
“The loser, as ever, will be social care and the many thousands of older, frail and vulnerable people who will go without care in care homes or in their own home or day care centre.
“Instead of seizing an opportunity to do something meaningful for a vulnerable sector of the community, the Government continues to sleep-walk towards disaster.”
Care providers have seen almost £5bn cut from social care budgets since 2010, whilst they face huge increases in their costs due to the introduction of the National Living Wage and a huge hike in the fees they pay to their inspection body, the Care Quality Commission.
Care providers and charities this week wrote to the Chancellor warning that unless the social care funding gap – expected to reach £2.9bn by 2020 – was addressed, up to half of the country’s care homes could close and homecare providers cease providing care. This would result in hundreds of thousands of people being left without the care they need.
“Money spent on social care prevents money having to be spent later, on costly NHS services. The sector has withstood decades of cuts and there is no more fat to trim.
“The warnings are clear, unless funding improves, care homes will close and there will be nobody to care for people in their own home or provide day care sessions. Unless this message is heard, many thousands of people will continue to suffer hardship.”
Alternatively Lilian Faithfull Homes, Head of Finance, Liam Evans commented; ‘I have analysed the Spending Reviews proposals and comments and whilst some organisations in the care sector are looking for more money to bridge the gap in the forthcoming National Minimum Wage; that’s not us, we’re already there and our staff will get more money in 2016.
‘Any more money coming from the taxpayer via the Local Authority goes to helping more families and furthering our Charity’s work. In essence we envisage being able increase our help and support by passing on any additional income to supporting more and more residents, particularly those with very limited or no resources.
‘This again demonstrates some of the tangible differences between the commercial and charitable care sector. We’re not looking for more money to prop-up our ‘business’ or stave off impending financial problems, we are looking for more money to help more of those in need.’
Dimensions, a specialist provider of a wide range of services for people with learning disabilities commented that the Spending Review fails to protect people with learning disabilities and autism against the rising of tide of pressures and costs
“Inequality hasn’t risen”, “opportunity for all”, “we’re all in this together”, – just some of the many declarations made by the Chancellor during the Spending Review. We know that many people with a learning disability and autism across the country will be facing the real consequences of inequality, a lack of opportunity and a feeling of abandonment by the government.
While the details are still to be confirmed, it is clear that today’s Spending Review does not come close to preventing the Social Care Crisis that so many of us within the Sector have been talking about. By failing to protect social care from its cuts, the government are ignoring the needs of people with learning disabilities, autism and their families across the country, and have forsaken some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Steve Scown, Dimensions CEO said, “George Osborne’s announcement that one of his priorities’ “is to develop a modern, integrated, health and social care system that supports people at every stage of their lives” just doesn’t ring true. He is giving more money to fix potholes than he is to fix social care.
We needed the government to share in our vision of a future where those people who need support, get support, and that support is of excellent quality. It provides people with the opportunity to live independently, seek and find employment, have choice and control over their lives and be a valued member of their community.”
As the NHS struggles to cope under the weight of a failing social care system, the paltry figure that has been made available today through the Better Care Fund will not help against the irresistible tide of pressures that are driving up costs – many of which are of the government’s making. “The focus on the NHS is short-sighted,” says Steve Scown, “system and functions are so inter-dependent, by not addressing the social care crisis, people will be forced to resort to hospitals for their care, putting more pressure on an already struggling NHS. We need to see a larger financial commitment, to provide a fully integrated health and social care system.”
There was also no mention of the struggle providers and local authorities will face to pay staff once the National Living Wage is introduced, meaning many will be forced to exit the market, leaving a lack of choice and competition.
The government’s lack of commitment to plugging the funding gap facing social care means support for people with a learning disability will become less dignified and more people will have their needs unmet. Council’s will potentially face an increase in lawsuits as they struggle to meet the levels of support required by law. The level of public service funding must be commensurate with the level of expectation and legal requirements. A 2% council tax increase will not provide this, particularly in poorer areas, where the amount raised will be less.
“We want to see real, effective, long-lasting change that requires comprehensive, far-reaching and innovative reforms, supported by appropriate financial investment” says Steve, “not a redesign of public services that have neither been debated nor mandated.”
Care England, a representative body for care providers, has also expressed its disappointment at the outcome of the Spending Review.
Chief Executive Prof Martin Green said: “There is a real and immediate crisis in social care with many organisations facing an uncertain future. The extra money that was announced today in the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review will not deliver enough money, and it will certainly not be in time to avert a crisis in some care services. There is no guarantee that every local authority will increase the council tax by 2% and even if this does happen, it will not provide a consistent approach to funding care.”
Professor Martin Green continued: “The Chancellor has increased funding to the Better Care Fund, but there is little evidence from the way in which the Better Care Fund has been operating to date that this money has gone to the front line. Care England would like a review of the Better Care Fund to ensure that in future the £1.5 billion that the Chancellor has announced goes directly into front-line care.”
Jane Ashcroft, CBE, CEO of Anchor said:
“The money for specialist housing is welcome and recognition that it is good for older people and reduces pressure on the NHS. But it doesn’t go far enough given the huge impact of our ageing population. “Building desirable housing for older people can have a massive effect on the property market because it also frees up larger family homes and helps everyone on the housing ladder. The planning system must also be looked at to remove the disincentives to building specialist housing for sale. “The proposal to allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 2% to fund social care is woefully short of what’s needed. It also risks a postcode lottery of care in which the poor and the old face the biggest tax hikes. The shelving of the cap on care costs in July has created real concerns which today’s announcement does not sufficiently address. “Government made a manifesto commitment to look after people as they grow old yet more and more people are facing care fees on their own. I am seriously worried that the Government risks failing to achieve its commitment unless it addresses the long-standing issues of underfunding of the care system. “This is a major issue today for older people and younger people planning for their future. Our research has found that well over a third of over 55s are concerned about being able to afford adequate care in their old age. I hope that today’s announcements on older people’s housing and care are just the start and indicate more action to come.”
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“The Government’s commitment to fund a dementia research institute offers hope and we welcome the recognition that the NHS cannot function effectively without investment in good social care.
“However, the new money promised will only go some way to covering the £4.3 billion social care funding gap estimated by 2020. Today must be a first step towards ensuring the vital lifeline of social care for people with dementia.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Having asked for it, we are pleased the Government is front loading investment in the NHS, to support the full implementation of the 5 Year Forward View we hope, with its huge potential to improve healthcare for older people.
“But on social care the picture is complex and we have some serious concerns. The most promising aspect is the doubling of the value of the Disabled Facilities Grant by 2020, which should help more older people to equip their homes before they have a fall, rather than after it as so often happens now.
“The most worrying element however is that the extra money promised for social care is so deeply uncertain – depending as it does on councils applying a 2% precept on council tax – but in any case this supposed extra money for social care is not nearly enough. Even on the most optimistic reading of the measures announced today there is no taking account of the growth in need due to our ageing population and a million older people in England already have at least one unmet need for care. Expect these numbers to get considerably worse.
“If you read the detail behind the Chancellor’s speech you can see a new way of funding and organising social care being envisaged by 2020, based on a fully integrated approach with the NHS for the care of older people coming into and leaving hospital, and with councils using local funding sources to pay for the long term care of local residents who can’t afford to fund it for themselves. Managing the transition from where we are now to this new approach will be fraught with difficulty and we fear some very vulnerable older people could fall between the cracks and be badly let down along the way. The top priority must be to make sure this doesn’t happen.
“And more worrying still in the shorter term, with no reimbursement promised for the introduction of the new Living Wage into the care sector next April, we fear increasing numbers of private care homes will close their doors to council funded residents, further reducing choice in an already thread-bare market, ultimately making hospitals the place of last resort for people with nowhere else to go.
“The Chancellor rightly talked about the importance of security, but regretfully for older people who need social care the next few years look worryingly uncertain. “