For years now, ADASS and anyone with an interest in the sector have been calling on the Government to ensure more funding is provided for adult social care – a long-term, sustainable financial platform.
Last month’s Budget was another ‘lost opportunity’ to do this – instead there was a short-term, temporary and wholly inadequate offer, presumably with the intent to shore up the sector. But the measure that was taken represented a baby step, and not the giant leap forward we need.
Firstly, the money is split between children’s and adults’ social care, meaning it is now up to be negotiated against a variety of competing demands, bartered and traded to offset overspends and between different departments. That is no way to ensure that a sustainable basis for care – care that older and disabled people depend on – is put in place.
Secondly, it was nowhere near enough. £650m (for adults’ and children’s services), including £240m of previously announced money rolling over, does not come close to the £2.35bn that ADASS estimates the sector needs just to stand still each year.
Although we have called for a long-term funding plan to be brought forward in the green paper, colleagues across the sector are struggling now in the face of unprecedented funding shortfalls and the consequences of eight years of austerity.
The £240m provided by Government for this year and next is a positive step and recognition that adult social care has a reputation of delivery. But we must go much further, much faster.
It’s crucial that these funds are not tied into stringent conditions or merely allocated to reduce pressure on the NHS, but left for local departments to make decisions that reflect the needs of people needing care and support in their area.
The human impact of the long-term funding crisis in social care will be felt by all of us, especially our parents and grandparents who need care and support, as well as adults with disabilities trying to live as fulfilling a life as possible.
Our amazing social care staff do all they can to provide exceptional care, but with no long-term funding plan for social care, the sombre truth is that people will face reduced choices and delays when it comes to deciding what care will work best for them, and that social care departments are increasingly having to cope with more demand, with less funding available to support it.
This situation will only get worse as the population is changing, demand is growing and people have increasingly complex needs for care and support.
That’s why the Government’s green paper is so important, because it is a chance to build toward a more sustainable future. At the centre of that green paper must be a cast iron commitment to supporting people to live the lives they want to lead. And that can only be honoured with a long-term funding solution for adult social care.
We are talking about how best to look after our grandparents, parents and children; adults of all ages in our communities who live with a range of disabilities and conditions. These people are an essential part of our communities and make them stronger; the care we offer them must be properly resourced.
In addition to significant additional (and genuinely new) investment, what we need is an across-the-board commitment to shifting the centre of gravity; away from the acute sector and the back door of hospitals, and more toward prevention and the steps that can be taken to help people retain their independence and place in local communities and reduce their need for ongoing long-term support.
With social care accounting for nearly 40% of total council budgets, other vital services are depending on the Government for getting this long-term funding solution for social care right.
We’ve seen some positive steps this year, with the move to incorporate social care in the Department of Health and Social Care, and the £240m to ease winter pressures. We now need a big, bold move to ensure we can make sure care is sustainable.