Responding to an Age UK report out today (6th March) that highlights a massive £3.4 billion shortfall in planned expenditure on social care for 2015/16, the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) said nursing homes in many parts of the country had experienced significant ‘real terms’ cuts in the fees paid by local authorities towards the care costs of vulnerable older people who qualify for public funding.
Commented RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell: “Those of us who provide 24-hour care to some of Britain’s frailest older citizens have witnessed at first hand how, despite the government’s hype to the contrary, frontline services have seen budgets cut.
“The reality, as the Age UK has yet again confirmed, is that public expenditure on care for the elderly has been dropping quite markedly while the number of individuals in need of care has been growing. In that respect, it’s what you might call a ‘perfect storm’ in which the biggest losers are those least able to stand up to the government.”
Figures from the RNHA suggest that for the twelve months ahead the vast majority of local authorities have offered either no increase at all in fee levels for publicly funded nursing home places or a below-inflation figure. In practical terms, the RNHA points out, this amounts to a cut in funding at a time when the Care Quality Commission is putting even more pressure on nursing homes to raise standards.
“In the four years of this coalition government nursing homes will have been lucky to see the fees they receive from local authorities go up by between 1% and 2%,” said Mr Ursell. “And even this minuscule increase has been more than wiped out by inflation, including higher fuel and food costs.”
He added: “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the government’s claims about local authority spending on social care. As the Age UK report shows, between 2010/11 and 2013/14 the total amount of public funding spent on older people’s social care – even when taking into account money transferred to local authorities from the NHS – has fallen by as much as 10%.
“Central funding support to local government has been slashed to such an extent that local authorities are unable, or unwilling, to protect services for older people who are, it seems, at the bottom of the pecking order even though, by virtue of their age, frailty, multiple health problems and social needs, they should be at the top.
“Successive governments have paid lip service to the needs of older people, with occasional cosmetic initiatives such as the Better Care Fund scheduled to come into effect in 2015 but relying entirely on existing NHS money. There is no new money being put on the table, so the government is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“There is also the rather unsavoury post-Dilnot saga in which the government claims to be putting a cap on the amount of money individuals will have to find from their own pockets for care. It sounds good but, as ever, you have to look at the small print of the deal. Sadly, individuals in care homes who are not eligible for public funding will have in perpetuity to carry on paying around £12,000 a year or more for so-called ‘hotel costs’ – the cap is not really a cap at all.”
Mr Ursell concluded: “We in the RNHA have a simple message for the government. Please put your money where your mouth is because, so far, the money isn’t flowing where you said it would. Age UK was right to call its report Crisis in Care 2014 – there certainly is a crisis and it’s mainly of the government’s making.”