The government’s announcement that local authorities will be allowed to raise extra funding for social care has received a downbeat welcome from the industry.
The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, has, as expected, told MPs that councils will be permitted to increase council tax by up to 6% over two years, ringfenced for social care, with a maximum of 3% each year.
Mr Javid said the measure, when added to the £240m taken from the New Homes Bonus, would mean £900m extra for local authorities over the next two years to fund social care services.
But industry leaders complained it does not go far enough. Care England said it would not prevent a further reduction of care home beds.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive, said: “While any new money to social care is of course welcome, the government must understand that this is only an interim measure, and is a figure below that which the sector believes is necessary. The government must look to work urgently with the social care sector to create a better system for the long term, which delivers the care citizens should be able to expect in the 21st century.
“It is important to remember that this money will provide a temporary injection, but will not future-proof this sector. There has to be better accountability of how local authorities spend the precept – at present, few providers of frontline services have seen a meaningful change in the resources they have to provide care. A clear accountability trail is essential to progress. So too is an agreement on fair funding. We welcome the proposal of a Fair Funding Review, but call on government to engage with care providers in shaping its findings. We are also anxious to know the conditions attached the Adult Social Care Support Grant, and are concerned that this is not new money.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “This local government finance settlement represents a missed opportunity to set out a long-term strategy on sustainable social care funding.
“A 6% rise in council tax over two years, alongside a new support fund while welcome, will do little to paper over the cracks in the social care system. This mechanism for funding social care is neither sustainable nor equitable in the long-term, as the Treasury Select Committee highlighted earlier this year.
“The government have listened but appear to have ignored views from across the sector that a long term funding solution must be found. We need the Government to convene cross-party talks and get on with tackling this crisis in social care, to make sure that frail elderly people can get the care and support they desperately need.”
National Care Association chairman, Nadra Ahmed, said the extra cash may be too late to solve the care funding crisis.
“Unquestionably, this intensifying crisis is a direct result of an on-going strategic policy of under investment by national and local government. The sums don’t add up. It is quite evident the independent care home sector cannot survive to serve social care when local authority and clinical commissioning groups are reducing the funding per resident by eight per cent on average, while providers endure a seven per cent year on year increase in wage bills alone.
“What’s more, any ‘quick fix’ measures of the kind proposed in the current debate fail to take account of those local authorities whose residents are most in need of care services, many of them exempt from paying council tax or qualifying for tax relief. Sadly, these proposals cannot begin to approach a solution to an endemic problem that threatens a care home sector already under threat from further austerity cuts.
“Chronic underfunding disregards demographic change, market pressures, and the impact on people receiving care. As it is, care providers exiting the market and large-scale contract hand-backs are demonstrating the fragility of this sector.
‘In short, until central government embarks upon more viable public/private integration of care services through realistic, ring-fenced, sector-sustaining funding, ministers dependent on quick fixes will soon run out of sticking plaster.”
Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The government cannot ignore the call, from both the NHS and local government, to act and avoid a crisis in social care this winter. While this announcement is a step in the right direction it does not go far enough.
“This relatively small cash boost fails to address the long-term funding shortfall and so while we welcome the promise of a review into the sustainability of social care, it must happen quickly.”
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “This is a national crisis that needs national leadership. The government is effectively washing its hands of it by passing the buck to local councils while providing no assurance that the money needed to fund care can be raised.
“With more deprived parts of the country unable to raise as much as their more affluent counterparts, the precept will widen inequalities without addressing the fundamental disconnect between the amount care costs and the amount councils have to spend on it.”