New Prime Minister Theresa May’s government needs urgently to get to grips with the unprecedented crisis enveloping social care, the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) warned, as figures released in a report from directors of adult social services across England reveal a £930 million funding gap for 2016/17.
The report says the flexibility given to councils to increase council tax by up to 2% a year specifically for social care has raised less than two thirds of the amount needed just to meet providers’ increased costs following introduction of the national living wage.
Said RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell: “This confirms our worst suspicions when George Osborne made such a big thing in his autumn statement about the social care precept. As we feared, it has proved to be a flimsy sticking plaster only half-covering a gaping financial wound. The fault lies squarely with the Cameron government and its blind refusal to face the facts about the inexorably rising needs of an ageing population.”
He added: “We, in the adult social care sector, call upon Theresa May to live up to her leadership campaign declarations about helping the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society. She can start by telling her new chancellor to find the money to plug the black hole identified in the adult social services directors’ own report.”
Mr Ursell also drew attention to the report’s acceptance that care home providers are facing financial difficulties, with many struggling to recruit staff and some being forced to sell up or hand back their contracts for providing places to residents funded by local authorities.
“The report paints a bleak but realistic picture,” he said. “Further massive cuts to social care expenditure are on the cards for this year, next year, the year after that and the year after that. Nearly all the directors of adult social services who took part in a survey on which the report is based thought care providers will face both financial and quality challenges in the future.”
He concluded: “I can only echo the directors’ own words when they warn that social care is in jeopardy and that the measures taken by the previous government over the past year were too little and too late. As a national association representing nursing home providers, we join with them in calling on Theresa May’s new government to address this as a matter of urgency.
“The first step must be to pump emergency funding of an extra £1 billion into councils’ social services budgets for this year. That will at least steady the ship. The second step must be to set up a task force, chaired by an independent expert, to recalibrate the way in which central government funding for social care is calculated and to report its findings within six months.
“Finally, the government needs to be mindful of the consequences for the NHS if these pressures on social care continue unabated. Yet more hospital beds will be blocked by patients who cannot be discharged to the dwindling number of available care home places supported by public funding, which means a slow down in elective admissions and longer waiting lists and times for treatment. What the entire health and social care system needs now is action from the top. We are waiting to see it.”