Care UK chief executive Mike Parish shares his reaction to yesterday’s Autumn Statement with Care Home Professional.
Those of us concerned by the escalating crisis in social care funding – particularly the sustainability of local authority funded care – had hoped that an unprecedented public consensus across providers, social services directors, the Local Government Association and NHS leadership would finally drive government action.
Last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review recognised the problem but proposed only patchy remedies. Adding 2% to council tax bills was a sticking plaster at best – it doesn’t cover the costs of the National Living Wage, it isn’t evenly distributed and it ignores the longer term funding gap. It leaves local authorities and the NHS hopeful that struggling providers can and will hang on, it does nothing to incentivise the development of new care homes to replace outdated properties and it leaves an estimated shortfall of £1.9bn for social care in the country.
This year’s Autumn Statement therefore had work to do. Instead it was silent. The lack of new measures is a considered gamble by government that, somehow, cash squeezed providers will continue to prop up underfunded care and loss making care homes.
Already more older people are arriving at – but not leaving – expensive NHS services, instead of being cared for properly in their own home or in specialised, cost-effective nursing care. Hospitals need their beds for sicker patients and planned surgery. We’re stuck in the economics of the madhouse, with the NHS picking up a far bigger bill – at least £820 million a year – than properly funded social care would cost.
Within social care itself, inaction means a drift towards a two tier system. The sector can attract investment for excellent new care homes for those who fund their own care. But the economics of local authority funded care no longer work, and the choices for those unable to fund themselves are becoming scarce and increasingly unfit for purpose. Moreover, with funding insufficient to support existing services, it’s impossible to invest or to replace the 80% of homes which are already more than 50 years old.
We need a strategic response. Perhaps we’ll see it next year, by which time the horse may have well and truly bolted…..