Allowing local authorities to increase council tax to boost social care funding is just a ‘sticking plaster solution’, industry leaders have warned.
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.
Richard Humphries, Assistant Director for Policy for The King’s Fund, said: “The new support grant for social care and the decision to allow councils to raise more money through Council Tax over the next two years is belated recognition of the huge pressures on social care, but it is nowhere near enough to address next year’s funding gap.
“The emphasis on the precept risks increasing the inequalities that mean the wealthiest parts of the country can raise up to three times as much as poorer areas. Simply passing the problem to councils to solve is inadequate.
“While the Prime Minister has committed to finding a sustainable long-term solution, there is an urgent need to explain how this will be developed. In the meantime, older people, their families and carers are being let down by a failure of political leadership.
“This once again underlines the need for fundamental reform to put social care on a sustainable footing for the future. A frank and open debate with the public, building on the work of the Barker Commission to deliver a new settlement for health and social care is long overdue. Successive governments have ducked this challenge.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”