The Spending Review — Too little too late for social care?
26 November 2015
The chancellor talked quite a lot about social care in yesterday’s Spending Review.
It was clear that he had listened to what we and others have been telling him about the challenges facing social care.
More and more people need support and councils have less money to provide it.
Unfortunately, none of the measures he announced will go far enough.
It's good there's new money for the NHS, and some for social care but he has only solved half the problem. He also left a lot of questions unanswered.
New powers for councils
The first thing he told us is that councils will be able to increase council tax by 2% to pay for social care if they want to.
This will help to put power in local hands and means councils can have conversations with local people about which services they should prioritise.
The problem is even if every single council decides to do this, it will only raise around £2 billion a year by 2020.
Many experts think it will be much less. What’s clear is with the funding gap in social care increasing by at least £700 million a year, the sums just don’t add up.
The problem will be worse in some parts of the country. Some areas raise a lot less council tax than others.
These are often the same areas where more people need social care. We worry that these new powers will be least effective in the areas facing the biggest funding challenges.
Bringing services together
We were pleased to hear the government will be speeding up work to integrate health and social care, to ensure by 2020 services are properly joined-up around people who need them.
At the moment, hospitals and GPs are managed by the NHS, while councils are responsible for social care, including care in your home or a nursing home.
People often face long delays trying to move between the two.
This isn’t fair on people. It also puts huge pressure and additional cost on the NHS.
The chancellor announced more money for the Better Care Fund, which helps councils and the NHS integrate services locally.
This is a good start, but the fund hasn’t worked that well for social care so far — we hope the government will think about this to ensure the money gets to the people who need it.
Too little, too late?
Above all, we’re worried most of this money won’t find its way into social care until 2017.
That’s a long time for disabled and older people enduring flying care visits, or with no help at all, to wait.
There’s still a lot more work for the government to do to make care fair.
Until then we will continue to see more people stuck in hospital beds, more care home closures, more 15-minute care visits and increased rationing of help for disabled people to do basic things like getting dressed, washing and eating.
Alice Mitchell-Pye is a policy and campaigns officer at Leonard Cheshire Disability