Care providers say the Grinch has stolen Christmas hope from 1.4m older and vulnerable adults who are currently going without the care they need.
The Independent Care Group is worried that the proposed Government Green Paper on the future funding of social care has been pushed back into the New Year. And there are reports that pledges on social care reform could be reprioritised by the Government because of Brexit preparations.
Nevertheless, the group remains hopeful that 2019 will bring better times for care.
Chair Mike Padgham said: “For everyone working in social care and those who benefit from the compassionate care they provide, we had hoped that Christmas might have brought some hope in the shape of a Green Paper, setting out a brighter future for the sector.
“But instead the Grinch seems to have stolen Christmas and taken the Green Paper with it! This is at least the fourth time the Green Paper has been delayed, with people always being promised jam tomorrow but never receiving it. Now it looks like reform of social care, like other manifesto pledges, is going to be reprioritised because of Brexit.”
The Group says £7bn has been cut from council social care budgets in the past eight years, resulting in the closure of care and nursing homes, domiciliary care providers handing back unviable contracts and extra care providers struggling. The net result is that at least 1.4m older and vulnerable adults are living without the care they need.
It warns that that figure will continue to rise unless something is done quickly.
“You don’t need to be the ghost of Christmas future to predict that more and more people are going to go without care, unless action is taken to support social care,” Mr Padgham added. “Instead of seeing cut after cut to social care funding, we desperately need 2019 to be the year we see investment in the sector so that the rising number of people who require help can get the care they need and those compassionate people working in social care can get the recognition they deserve.”
Experts predict a shortfall of some £2.8bn by 2019/20, or £3.5bn by 2025.
“Even when the Green Paper is finally published, it will be a consultation document and it will be many months, if not years, before we see meaningful change. We need action now,” Mr Padgham added.
“We are reaping now what we failed so sow in previous years – as a country we did not invest enough in social care during the good financial years and now that things are tight, we are seeing social care struggle and that is bad news for the 1.4m who aren’t getting the care they need.”
For 2019, he wants to see the integration of social care with NHS care, better funding for social care and for care to be made zero rated for VAT, all of which would enable social care providers to invest, properly reward and recruit staff and be ready for a rapidly increasing demand for care.