Viewpoint: A national crisis needs a national response

elderly person's hands, care

The LGiU and many other commentators have been saying that the adult social care is in crisis – a crisis caused largely by inadequate funding to address social care needs. While councils have largely tried to shield social care from the worst of the cuts, the overall financial picture means that everything than can be cut legally has been cut and sometimes a little bit more. Councils are now faced with a choice between providing essentially only adult social care to a reasonable standard or trying to balance the needs of the wider population – bins, street lights, libraries, parks and all the other things that councils do to make areas good places to live with the needs of a vulnerable few. Council leaders, the providers of social care, the people who need care and those who love them have been saying that social care is at the breaking point.

Philip Hammond’s recent Autumn Statement failed to mention social care at all. Sajid Javid’s financial settlement for local government on 15 December announced a shift of money from vital housing to social care and the ability to bring forward earmarked council tax rises a year or two.

LGiU Chief Executive Jonathan Carr-West said “In many ways, this settlement illustrates exactly what is wrong with our over centralised political system as the Secretary of State shuffled funding from one silo to another. Council tax rises cannot be the answer to the crisis in adult social care funding as many of the councils with the most pressing care needs have the lowest council tax base.

In the end, this problem cannot be addressed while we continue to treat health and social care as separate systems and to protect the NHS at the expense of social care. After a decade of public debate all we have is a sticking plaster of increased council tax and no long term solution for the greatest public policy question of our age.”

Councillor Iain Malcolm is the Leader of South Tyneside, one of those councils with pressing need and low council tax base. He said:

“Faced with the double dilemma of a growing elderly population and chronic underfunding from central government, the social care system in Britain is at breaking point. That is a fact of life which organisations such as the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and the King’s Fund have been highlighting for some time but the government is choosing to ignore.

“This problem requires a national solution. The government had the opportunity to address this crisis and consider a fair funding settlement in their Autumn Statement but, again, chose not to.

“As this situation is a direct result of the government’s austerity measures, it would be quite wrong to expect local taxpayers to pick up the bill.

“Furthermore, it is particularly unfair because areas with the lowest council tax base have the highest demand for services so this policy simply widens the inequality gap across the country.

“We have already used the flexibility given by the government to levy a two per cent precept for Adult Social Care in 2016-17. However this funding did not plug the gap left by a diminishing central government grant, the introduction of the national living wage and increasing demand. In South Tyneside the two per cent increase in Council Tax raised just £900k against the £3.5m needed for adult social care, most of which was needed to cover the government’s unfunded introduction of the National Living Wage.

“In the absence of a fair funding solution to this crisis, we are likely to be in the unfortunate position of having to raise Council Tax further to help plug the gap as the government fails to take responsibility for the crisis its policies have created.”

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