Adult social care has been in the press a lot for the last few months, with a lot of talk about how it’s at a ‘tipping point’ whereby services will start collapsing if more funding isn’t provided.
This is absolutely true.
“Adult social services” covers a huge number of things, many of which most of us aren’t even aware of until we, or someone close to us, needs to use them. It’s everything from helping people get out of bed, washed and dressed; making sure vulnerable adults aren’t being taken advantage of by friends, family members or anyone else; providing support for people with mental health issues and learning disabilities; and so, so much more. Two million people in the UK rely on it to lead quality, meaningful lives.
However, more people are living longer (and experiencing more years of ill health), and more people are living with more complex needs, which means demand for those services is getting higher. At the same time, funding from central government for local councils, which pay for services, has been cut by 40 per cent since 2010. Fewer people are receiving care than five years ago, and most councils have experienced home care providers giving back contracts, and care homes going out of business, because the money isn’t sustainable. Councils need an extra £2.6 billion by 2020 just to maintain services as they are.
Every corner of the social care sector, the NHS and charities have called for adequate funding, before any more people lose services, and before the NHS is totally broken because people are getting stuck in hospital thanks to a lack of services to keep them at home in the first place, and a lack of services to look after them and keep them safe when they get out.
The Government’s response has been to say councils can increase council tax by up to 3 per cent per year, up to a maximum of 6 per cent in total over the next three years. I’m not sure how obvious it is from the news stories around today (probably depends which ones you read) so to clarify why this “solution” is no solution at all:
- You raise a lot more money in rich areas because they have more high-band properties, which pay more council tax. A 3% rise on a £3000 Band H bill is much bigger than a 3% rise on a £700 Band A bill
- This helps to create a postcode lottery of services, and one in which those areas in most need have the least money available (poorer areas tend to have greater social care needs)
- Some areas won’t increase the council tax to pay for services – either because it isn’t politically palatable, or because they consider their residents to already be at breaking point and unable to pay any more for council tax
- The council tax precept won’t even raise enough money to cover increasing social care wage costs as a result of the national living wage (which adds about £600 million a year to social care costs) – let alone tackle the increasing demand and services to meet more complex needs.
Also the “new money” announced for social care from the New Homes Bonus is actually just reallocating existing local government money, so basically just takes money out of other council services to prop up social care.
So as far as I can tell, if you’re one of the increasing number of elderly or disabled people in need of some help to live a good quality life – it seems that the Government sends you good wishes and the best of luck, but has no plans to find a genuine solution for the crisis that’s been building for years. I don’t know how much harder people have to plead, how many more people have to lose services, or how much more hard evidence of the seriousness of the situation has to be provided, before someone does something about it.