Nursing home leaders have given a mixed reaction to the Chancellor’s Spending Review announcement of additional funds for social care, warning that the plans amount more to wishful thinking than to hard cash.
Frank Ursell, chief executive officer of the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA), said that no presumptions could or should be made that local authorities would take the Chancellor up on his offer to allow them to put up council tax by 2% and raise funds for adult social care.
“Many councils will think twice about putting up local taxes,” he said. “So for the Chancellor to bandy about predictions of a possible £2 billion a year extra is a bit pie in the sky. We’ll believe it when we see it.
“What we are going to end up with is yet another lottery. Some might argue that the government has performed a neat little side step by shifting the decision-making burden about money for social care from the Treasury on to the shoulders of local politicians.”
He added: “We note that the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has forcefully expressed concern that even if the money is forthcoming, it will be far from enough to meet the growing needs for social care and to address the financial consequences of the new National Living Wage (NLW) for the already hard-pressed social care sector.
“We share those concerns and ask why the government is not prepared to fund the significant increase in wage costs that care providers are facing. We support the principle of the NLW but will struggle to find the money at a time when we are striving to raise standards. What we might have spent on additional staff time looks as though it will, at best, simply preserve the status quo.
“Both the commissioners and providers of care wrote jointly to the Chancellor a few weeks ago to stress that the imposition of the NLW homes would result in a need for a five to seven per cent rise in the fees paid to care homes by local authorities. That doesn’t look as though it is on the cards, so we anticipate quite a few closures over the next year, which will add further pressures on hospitals seeking to discharge patients into a smaller number of available places.
“We also ask when adult social care will see the resources promised from the Better Care Fund. They appear to have been put off to 2017 and beyond. It looks like another story of too little too late.”
Mr Ursell concluded: “Finally, we wonder what is happening to the £6 billion saved by the government’s deferment of the introduction of the Dilnot reforms. That money was originally intended to benefit people who need a care home. It was going to enable those with a significantly higher level of assets than under the current system to receive public funding towards their care, and to cap the total amount that any individual is expected to spend on care before public funding kicks in anyway.
“It would have been impressive if the ‘savings’ achieved from this deferment had been reallocated to the social care budgets of local authorities. This would have been a boost for the care sector generally. Many people in need would have been the beneficiaries – people who may not now receive appropriate services for their needs.
“All in all, the Chancellor’s announcement this week has been couched with so many ifs and buts that those of us in the thick of providing the care so desperately needed by thousands of frail and vulnerable people are not as impressed as he might like us to be. ‘Must try harder’ is the verdict.”