‘If it sounds too good to be true, then it’s almost certainly too good to be true’ is the Registered Nursing Home Association’s (RNHA) verdict on the government’s social care spending plans in the wake of yet another revelation about drastic budget cuts by local authorities for the next twelve months and beyond.
Commenting today on the results of a survey of local authorities showing that cutbacks of 4% in councils’ social care spending are on the cards during 2014/15, RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell said the harsh realities on the ground contrasted vividly with the pledges made by the coalition.
“Back in the heady days of October 2010, just after it came to power, we heard talk of an extra £2 billion being channelled into local authority social care budgets by 2014/15,” said Mr Ursell.
“Somehow or another, as some of us suspected it might, that money has evaporated in the wind. If you believed the government, you would expect the coming year to bode well for elderly people in need of residential or community care. But the opposite is the case.
“Councils are cutting back by raising the eligibility thresholds for many of the social care packages they provide and by charging the shrinking number of eligible older people more. Many councils are also stepping up pressure on nursing homes to accept reductions in fees for looking after some of the frailest elderly people in the country who need round the clock care and support.”
He added: “If this is an example of what it is like when the government says it is increasing expenditure on social care, I wouldn’t want to countenance what things would be like if and when it owns up to cutting expenditure.
“This is, of course, a classic case of smoke and mirrors which has been exposed by a series of independent analyses of the real facts. We’ve had the National Audit Office telling us in recent weeks that the costs of providing nursing and residential home care have been rising faster than the money made available by the government and local councils. We’ve also had Age UK highlighting a £3.4 billion black hole in social care spending by 2015/16. How much more evidence does the government need that its policies are simply not working?
Mr Ursell said the RNHA would be asking its members around the country to report on the impact of the government cutbacks on the amount and quality of care they are able to provide during 2014/15.