“Like putting a plaster on a patient that needs a triple bypass”. This is how Liverpool City Mayor Joe Anderson described the extra cash for social care announced by the Government yesterday. Communities minister Sajid Javid announced that up to £900m extra cash for social care would be available over the next two years. But far from soothing the worried brows of councils, care providers, residents and their families, the announcement just seems to have made everybody even angrier. Here’s why.
It’s not new money
The trouble is the Government hasn’t actually, strictly speaking, offered any extra cash for social care. Local authorities will have the ability to increase council tax to spend on social care by up to 6% over two years rather than three. They will also be able to spend money from the New Homes Bonus, which rewards councils for building houses, on social care.This is not “new money” either, but a redistribution of funding already promised to councils. Councils will potentially be able to raise an extra £208m in total for social care next year.With real social care cuts of £4.6 billion in the last parliament, this robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a long-term solution.
It’s a drop in the ocean
To put it in context, for those councils that benefit the most, the extra council tax will generate 2.1% of their adult social care budget. For those that benefit least, it will generate just 0.6%. As the Local Government Association told the House of Commons enquiry on adult social care recently, “If we were to even meet the fair funding criteria for care today, we would need to add another £1.3 billion into the social care system. The foundations are therefore not solid and the future looks grim unless we get an injection of further resources.”
It will create yet another postcode lottery
Simply raising the council tax precept means extra money for care will vary across the country, depending on councils’ tax bases. For example, the amount of extra money raised per head of the adult population will vary from £5 in Newham and Manchester, to £15 in Richmond-on-Thames. The poorer areas where the need is greatest will get the least.
It won’t end the “secret subsidy” of top-up fees
The huge hole in social care funding means many families have no choice but to “top up” inadequate local authority payments with their own cash. The charity Independent Age says around a quarter of care home places now involve a top-up fee. As the amounts councils are willing to pay for care have decreased, these top-ups have become a “secret subsidy” propping up the care system; secret, because families are not being made aware of their legal rights on top ups and the fact that they should only ever be a free choice.
It won’t make care services more viable
Hundreds of providers say they are on the brink of financial ruin. Research recently showed 40 per cent of care services will not be viable in the medium term without an injection of extra cash into the social care system. And so the crisis continues.
Adequate funding of social care is vital to ensure high quality care for all and to relieve the mounting pressure threatening to engulf the NHS. Most people at the coal face know the situation is now so desperate that only a serious national effort will overcome it. This is why the Government must agree to calls for cross-party talks in order to find the long-term cure this country so badly needs.