Councils warn against ‘knee-jerk’ centralisation of social care


England’s largest councils have called on the government to set out its plans to reform social care this year while warning against a ‘knee-jerk’ centralisation of the system.

The statement by the County Councils Network (CCN) comes after the government quashed a report this week suggesting that it was preparing to merge health and social care.

Cllr David Fothergill, County Councils Network spokesperson for health and social care, and leader of Somerset County Council, (pictured) said: “The harrowing scenes that we have witnessed in our care sector deserve scrutiny, but we should be wary of a knee-jerk reaction that removes democratic oversight from adult social care and places it in a centralised system that coronavirus has shown contains huge drawbacks.

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“Many of the people supported by councils require their care more embedded in their community, not provided by a one-size fits all system which cannot make the best use of localised knowledge and networks.

“The coronavirus has exposed the fragility of the adult social care system due to years of underinvestment and no reform. It is only right that the dialogue turns to how we can re-shape the system so that individuals receive a world-class care service, but in order to provide this councils must be part of the solution.”

The statement by the CCN comes ahead of a Panorama documentary tonight that will explore the government’s handling of the pandemic in social care.

The CCN said councils had played a key role in supporting care providers during the pandemic with all 36 of its members increasing fees by the end of May.

The body said its members will spend an estimated an additional £837m this year on coronavirus related support for care operators and had provided £120m for care home PPE during the crisis.

Additionally, the CCN said councils had set aside £335m to prevent care providers from going bankrupt and were allocating £285m to meet the increase in people receiving care packages this year.

The CCN said issues with the distribution of PPE and the national testing programme had highlighted the drawbacks of a centralised care service.

While recognising the £1.16bn in additional resources to meet costs, it said this had been insufficient as councils faced £841m in extra costs in other services and £1.55bn in lost income pressures.

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The author Lee Peart

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