Charities Call for Social Care Fund Gap Prioritisation

Three health charities have called for urgent government investment in social care in order to avoid an impending disaster.

Plugging a £1.9bn social care funding gap should be a more urgent priority than boosting funding for the NHS in this month’s Autumn Statement, according to the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.

Addressing this gap will require significant action, following a combination of funding cuts and rising demand.

Thousands more older and disabled people could be denied access to necessary care, “with severe consequences for the NHS”, according to the charities.

And the groups particularly cite a 9% cut in real terms in social care spending by local authorities between 2009-10 and 2014-15, and 400,000 fewer people now access these services.

King’s Fund assistant director for policy Richard Humphries suggested that the situation of social care can be characterised as a crisis.

“Cuts to social care funding are leaving older and disabled people reliant on an increasingly threadbare local authority safety net. For many, the care they get is based not on what they need but on what they can afford and where they live. More people are left stranded in hospital. This government has committed to creating a country which works for everyone, and they now need to match this with action by using the Autumn Statement to address the critical state of social care.”

The gravity of the situation is underlined by the fact that a survey conducted by the County Councils Network (CCN) found that sjust 12% of adult social care directors think their budgets are manageable.

In response to this figure, CCN urged chancellor Philip Hammond to invest at least £700 million in social care.

The new National Living Wage, rising care costs, demographic growth and insufficient funding are all considered issues for the sector.

Some counties will struggle to deliver a balanced budget before the end of this Parliament based on these factors, and the figures collated by the CCN.

Additionally, there is scepticism about the ability of the existing sustainability and transformation plans to deliver adequate savings through integrated health and social care.

Conflicting targets and misaligned settlements between the two services are set to cause problems for social care, according to the CCN.

Suffolk County Council’s Conservative leader Colin Noble, the CCN’s spokesman for health and social care, was keen to point out that the current situation should not be mischaracterised as financial mismanagement, and instead indicative of a funding crisis.

“County authorities are contending with an impossible situation of seeing budgets reduce at a quicker pace than other councils, while coping with the biggest and fastest growing elderly population in UK history”.

 
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