Unpaid carers playing a pivotal part in supporting the chronically-underfunded adult social care system should be given council tax reductions, say councils.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling on the Government to fund the setting up of a council tax discount scheme for “the unsung heroes of the care system”.
Those who provide at least an hour of unpaid care a week (which would currently cost £17 on average) should be entitled to a reduction of £100 a year. A fully subscribed discount fund of £25 million would support at least 250,000 hours of unpaid care per week, saving up to £220 million a year.
Councils argue carers provide invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable people in society and help save taxpayers a fortune – their contribution to the economy is estimated at £120 billion a year – by relieving the pressure on health and care services. The discount fund would therefore be a relatively minor outlay with major benefits for the future of the care system.
The call comes as latest figures show the adult social care system is under enormous pressure and is in urgent need of sustainable funding. The funding gap is growing by a minimum of £700 million a year. This means councils are being forced to make difficult decisions about what services they can provide. Valuable non-statutory services such as meals on wheels, dining clubs, day centres and transport services – would be in danger of being axed without the critical help of volunteers.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“Adult social care is in crisis. The funding gap is growing by a minimum of £700 million a year and councils are being forced to make tough decisions about the services they provide.
“Unpaid carers play a pivotal role in the adult social care system and it is crucial we continue to attract them and recognise and reward the sterling work they do. They are the unsung heroes of the care system.
“In addition, they give invaluable help to some of the most vulnerable people in society. They save taxpayers money by relieving the pressure on health and care services.
“Without the additional support they provide the system would be even more unstable.
“This is a win-win for the Government. It helps tackle the adult social care system and also saves the country a fortune.”
- ‘A shared commitment: local government and spending review‘ (Adult social care p15)
- Unpaid carers save £120 billion a year, Carers UK
- Kent: Caring All Together on Romney Marsh (CARM) runs a befriending service, providing support to older and vulnerable people living in Romney Marsh and Ashford. The service aims to improve wellbeing and to help people remain independent; it is partially funded by Kent County Council.