Following today’s announcement by Sajid Javid that an extra £900m will be made available to fund social care over the next two years local authorities and care providers have commented on the funding and what it really means to the elderly and vulnerable.
“Allowing local authorities to increase council tax to boost social care funding is just a ‘sticking plaster solution”’, a leading social care group warned today.
The Government has said councils can increase Council Tax by up to 6% across the next three years to allow them more money to spend on caring for older and vulnerable adults.
But today the Independent Care Group said this was not a proper solution.
Chair, Mike Padgham said: “It is heartening that the Government has at least acknowledged that there is a problem and made an attempt at putting more funding towards social care.
“The problem is that increasing Council Tax over the next two to three years is not going to solve it – it is merely a sticking plaster, rather than a long-term cure.
“What is needed is a root and branch reform of the whole way social care is funded and delivered in this country, which we have been campaigning for during the past decade or more.”
The Group says social care is in crisis, with care homes closing, homecare providers handing back untenable contracts and people going without the care they need. Statistics show more than a million people are now living with an unmet care need and a £2.8bn social care shortfall is predicted by 2019-20.
“Tinkering with council tax is not going to tackle that shortfall,” Mr Padgham added. “We need radical action and we need it sooner rather than later, before that million people turns into two million people.”
“We need to create a single Government department – for National Health and Social Care – and fund it properly so that we can give people the care they deserve.
“We need some radical thinking on how we fund it, without thrusting the entire onus on local Council Tax-payers. Short-term we need the Government to put more into social care to ease the crisis on that sector and ease the burden it is also causing on over-stretched NHS services.
“Longer term we have to look at how we fund social care for future generations, even if that means the Government funds some of it but then has people save towards their care, like they currently do for their pension.
“If they want to get a clear picture of the situation the Prime Minister and responsible minister should visit the front line to see it for themselves.”
Between 2009 and 2015 the number of people receiving local authority-funded domiciliary care fell by 20%. The UKHCA and ADASS both report providers handing back “unsustainable” contracts.
On care homes, a quarter of homes in the UK – some 5,000 – are said to be in danger of going out of business, after 3,000 homes closed in the six months up to Sept 2015.
The Number of nursing homes fell from 4,697 to 4,633 in 2015-2016 – the first decline in five years.
National disability charity Sense has welcomed news that the Government is to allow councils to raise further funding for the social care system, but has warned that more must be done to address the scale of the current funding deficit.
The news that the Government has reallocated £240 million from the New Homes Bonus to the sector could raise as much as £900 million over the next two years. Plans will allow English local authorities to raise council tax bills by an extra 6% over the next two years. Proposals will give town halls the power to add a 3% levy to bills in 2017/18, and an additional 3% in 2018/19 to fund vital local social care services. However, Sense is concerned that a rise in the council tax precept alone will not plug the substantial social care funding gap, which industry experts warn could rise to over £2.6 billion by 2020.
Richard Kramer, Deputy CEO of disability charity Sense, said:
“It’s no secret that the social care sector is on the brink of collapse as a result of years of budget cuts and growing demographic pressures, we are therefore pleased to see that the Government is taking steps to address the current funding gap; however, we remain concerned that increasing council tax will not raise enough funds to deliver adequate and sustainable services to all those who need them across the country.
“The limited funds raised from the extra 2% social care precept on council taxes from April 2016 did not stem the growing threat of financial collapse the sector now faces and as a result of continued underfunding, the scale of the social care crisis is now colossal, with a deficit prediction of £2.6 billion by 2020. The reality is that although increased council tax will deliver much needed funds, the amount raised will only go a small way towards plugging this huge funding gap.
“It is imperative that funding solutions focus on delivering the centralised funds that are necessary to create a truly sustainable and quality social care system. Inadequate social care has a knock on effect and results in further demands on the NHS. For example, the people we support can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care. This is why the protection of these services should be a vital part of the Government’s agenda to increase life chances for disabled people.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
“Yesterday the Government’s Health Survey for England reported that two in every three women aged over 85 in this country have at least one unmet need for care. This finding needs to be put alongside a recent Age UK analysis, which found that 1.2 million older people (aged over 65) have at least one unmet need for care.
Statistics like these are breath-taking and demonstrate just how big the care gap has been allowed to become over the last few years.
“Against this context any additional money for older people’s care has to be viewed as good news but what has been announced today is clearly totally dwarfed by the scale of the care crisis and will make little practical difference to most older people who are trying to get by with insufficient support, or no support at all.
“The extra funding announced today will not be enough to counteract the pressures bearing down on care providers and councils – which ultimately are resulting in many older people being badly let down. As a result we look ahead with considerable foreboding and we are deeply worried about the future facing frail and vulnerable older people, especially those who are alone – as many are.
“A national initiative, led by Government, to put older people’s care on a sustainable financial footing cannot happen too soon.”
Commenting on the council tax ‘social care precept’ announcement, Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity said:
“This local government finance settlement represents a missed opportunity to set out a long-term strategy on sustainable social care funding. A 6% rise in council tax over two years, alongside a new support fund while welcome, will do little to paper over the cracks in the social care system. This mechanism for funding social care is neither sustainable nor equitable in the long-term, as the Treasury Select Committee highlighted earlier this year. The Government have listened but appear to have ignored views from across the sector that a long term funding solution must be found. We need the Government to convene cross-party talks and get on with tackling this crisis in social care, to make sure that frail elderly people can get the care and support they desperately need.”
Swanton Care and Community CEO Dr Alison Rose-Quirie said: “While it’s helpful to see that the Government is finally starting to realise the seriousness of the funding shortfall in social care a higher council tax precept will do nothing to solve this crisis.
“As we have already seen there is no mechanism to ensure that this extra money actually makes its way to frontline services. At Swanton we have agreed just 50 per cent of this year’s fee uplifts with local authorities; many just won’t make a decision 10 months in, the need for additional funding is urgent.
“What the Government is failing to realise is that this is a funding crisis today, right now, not in three months’ time. I would urge them to release an extra £2 billion immediately to avert a collapse of the system and to buy the time to find a real and long-lasting funding solution for social care which in my view will require structural change.”
Care England welcomed Sajid Javid’s Local Government Settlement announcement today, but warns that the nature of the funding offered will not prevent the sector from further bed losses.
Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“While any new money to social care is of course welcome, the Government must understand that this is only an interim measure, and is a figure below that which the sector believes is necessary. The Government must look to work urgently with the social care sector to create a better system for the long term, which delivers the care citizens should be able to expect in the 21st century.”
Care England is a body for independent providers of adult social care and has long campaigned to highlight the unsustainability of the care home sector with some local authorities paying as little as £2.41 per hour for care.
Professor Martin Green continued:
“It is important to remember that this money will provide a temporary injection, but will not future-proof this sector. There has to be better accountability of how local authorities spend the precept: at present, few providers of frontline services have seen a meaningful change in the resources they have to provide care. A clear accountability trail is essential to progress. So too is an agreement on fair funding: we welcome the proposal of a Fair Funding Review, but call on government to engage with care providers in shaping its findings. We are also anxious to know the conditions attached the Adult Social Care Support Grant, and are concerned that this is not new money.”
Speaking after the announcement of Government’s proposals for increasing council tax-raising powers for social care services in England, UKHCA’s Policy Director, Colin Angel, said:
“Government’s announcement is welcome to the extent that it acknowledges the immediate pressures on the social care system consistently identified by commissioners and providers of care, sector experts and NHS leaders.
“However, increasing the Council Tax Precept on a temporary basis is not sufficient. The Precept tends to raise the least money where it is most needed and is likely to leave councils with the greatest need the least benefit. It is also a regressive tax, which hits the poorest hardest.
“Regrettably, many local authorities have a poor track record of ensuring that funding reaches their front-line care services. There appears to be minimal safeguards in place to ensure that tax raised from the Precept is actually spent in ways which will effectively reduce instability of the state-funded care market. This is a matter which Government should investigate thoroughly to ensure public money is spent wisely.
“An effective solution to the funding of adult social care services remains pressing and must be addressed by Government in a way which will provide safe, effective care services for an ageing population.”
Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:
“Today’s local government funding settlement makes a small start in addressing the funding gap in social care. We and many others said that the Autumn Statement’s failure to address this was a huge oversight, so the extra funds announcement today must be welcomed as a step in the right direction.
“But in the context of the true scale of the crisis unfolding in social care, today’s announcements are relatively small. They will only amount to filling around a quarter of the £1.9bn funding gap facing social care next year alone. The funding announced today simply pushes back the problem to later on this parliament, when no further funding has been announced.
“With over 400,000 vulnerable older people over the last five years losing out on much-needed help to complete basic tasks like getting out of bed or getting dressed in the morning, the social care crisis is already here. Nobody wants a society where the oldest and most vulnerable are left behind, so social care must be put on a more sustainable footing.”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive said:
“Government has a duty to provide essential care and support to millions of disabled and older people in this country. We are pleased government is slowing waking up to this fact.
But raising council tax alone will not avert the crisis facing social care. In fact, the latest proposal gets no-where near to addressing the funding gap and with no new money we are continuing to call for stronger measures to put social care on a sustainable footing.”