The ‘devil is in the detail’ is the immediate reaction of the National Care Association in their close scrutiny of the Government’s Spending Review. It is a challenge to see how the proposal by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to allow local authorities to include a 2 per cent uplift in council tax, will be used ‘exclusively’ to fund the gap in social care funding, and solve the crisis in care. If (and it’s a big if) every local authority does this, it will put £2 billion into the social care budget by 2019/20 . . . that is a big if! But (and it’s a big ‘but’) there is no compulsion to do this!
The National Care Association points out that the current rates for social care, paid from local authority budgets, are well below the 2.4 per cent annual increase needed to keep pace with the costs of today’s care home placements. This shortfall will increase following the introduction of the Living Wage from April next year and increase further due to the 20 per cent CQC registration fees hike.
National Care Association Chairman Nadra Ahmed OBE said today, ‘The Chancellor has done nothing to avert or indeed recognise the plight of social care in today’s Government spending review. He has not diverted from the usual position of funding the leaky bucket that is the NHS and passed over responsibility for the thorny issue of social care to local authorities. Local authorities across the country are facing severe funding cutbacks and so any increases in council taxes will give them the opportunity to plug gaps in other essential services. To use the ‘additional’ 2 per cent ‘option’ exclusively to pay for adult social care will put locally elected members in a precarious position with their constituents.
Nadra Ahmed OBE continues, ‘The National Care Association points to a critical shortfall in average council funding of about 8 per cent for a typical care home placement as the significant contributory factor in the likely exodus of care providers from the sector. New research has triggered dire warnings that the government could have to find accommodation for 37,000 elderly and disabled care home residents by the end of the decade. Conversely, the National Care Association predicts that – due the current black hole in state funding – an exodus of care homes from the sector could equate to the catastrophic loss of 40,000 beds in the independent social care market and, in consequence, intensify the current NHS bed-blocking crisis. Therefore, unless increased funding from local councils recognises the true cost of care to ensure the survival of independent care homes, there remains a very real threat to the stability of this UK support service essential to Local Government and NHS care provision.’