Social care funding must be protected in the same way that it is for the NHS in the next Budget or another crisis such as the one seen this winter will be unavoidable, local government leaders are warning today.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the Chancellor to use next month’s Budget to protect public services in England with adequate funding to ensure councils can provide services locally. In particular, the Chancellor is being urged to protect social care funding to enable councils to support the NHS and prepare for reforms starting as soon as this April.
Without adequate funding, elderly and disabled people could be left without the social care services which help them to remain independent, and stay out of hospital and in their own homes for longer. Instead, thousands could see their elderly relatives, neighbours and friends risk being left without the care they need to live independently as well as simple every day support such as washing, dressing and meals on wheels.
Council leaders and health experts are warning that continuing to protect and invest money in the NHS whilst forcing councils to cut their already chronically-underfunded social care budgets is a false economy. It risks leaving councils unable to alleviate the pressure on the NHS and the most vulnerable people in danger of losing vital community care.
While councils have consistently been protecting spending on adult social care as far as possible, growing demand, escalating costs and a 40 per cent cut to local government budgets across this parliament mean that councils are being forced to make impossible decisions about which services they provide.
If protection for social care funding is not addressed in a similar way as it has been for the NHS, the situation will get worse over the next two years and put at risk the vital services that the most vulnerable people rely upon as well as putting in jeopardy the much needed changes to the care system which aim to make care more available to more people that need it.
Last month the LGA warned of the “crippling repercussions” that failing to protect funding for social care will have on other valued council services. Next year, councils will have to divert £1.1 billion from services like fixing potholes and running libraries and museums.
Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the LGA, said:
“This Budget must make sure adult social care is put on a sustainable financial footing. We can’t afford to waste this chance to get it right.
“Adult social care funding is in crisis. We have seen first-hand the devastating effects that a chronically-underfunded social care system can have on people’s lives this winter by leaving them stuck in hospital without the care they need. No one wants to see their elderly mum or dad, or sick neighbour suffer at the hands of a system that is buckling under the strain of inadequate funding. Yet, if we don’t have a commitment to protect the money for adult social care now, we are staring in the face of this inexcusable pattern repeating itself year after year.
“Too many older people are being let down by a system which leaves them languishing in hospital beds while they wait for an alternative, or consigned to residential care because we lack the capacity to help them live independently. This has to stop.
“The combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand, escalating costs and a 40 per cent cut to local government budgets across this Parliament mean that despite councils’ best efforts they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide.
“It’s not enough for consecutive Governments to keep papering over the cracks with short term fixes. We urgently need a longer-term solution that puts social care on a sustainable footing. Failure to do so will deprive our elderly of the care they deserve, create additional pressure on the NHS and push other local services over the edge.”
Richard Hawkes, Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents over 75 of Britain’s leading charities, said:
“The Care and Support Alliance supports the LGA Budget calls in relation to social care. We particularly welcome the focus on the link between spending on health and social care and the need to protect both.
“The LGA analysis of the reduction in social care funding makes it clear why the CSA hears so many stories of people failing to be supported to wash, dress, leave the house and communicate with those around them. This results in people withdrawing from society, becoming reliant on friends and family to provide care and support, often driving those relationships to crisis point. The only way to address this is sustained and consistent investment enabling local authorities to plan effectively to meet their duties in a sustainable way. Without this the social care system will remain in crisis.”