Social care plan contains nothing to help the ‘here and now’

The Local Government Association has warned that the government’s social care plan will do nothing to immediately help the millions of people who draw on and work in care and support.

Council leaders say that the plan contains far too little detail and no action at all on several crucial issues which need to be resolved and that the NHS cannot be fixed without also fixing social care.

The LGA says the council tax raises different amounts in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, while social care has already had to meet a £6.1 billion funding gap over the past decade through savings and diverting money from other council services, cutting them faster than they otherwise would have been.

Therefore, council leaders believe that the Spending Review needs to provide an urgent cash injection of genuinely new funding to tackle the huge pressures facing the care system now, including on staff pay to help address recruitment and retention, which has been severely stretched to breaking point by the pandemic.

The LGA says that addressing the NHS backlog and freeing up hospital beds cannot be done without also fixing social care, which will require additional support for those discharged in the community. Furthermore, the lack of any itemised breakdown of how this share of the levy will be used for social care is creating concern, while urgent clarity is also needed on how much will go to adult social care beyond the three-year period and an absolute guarantee that this will be delivered.

David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Social care was facing an uncertain future even before the pandemic, which has exposed and exacerbated some fundamental weaknesses in how we continue to pay for and provide care and support. The government’s long-awaited plan has some potential promise on how care is paid for and the contributions people themselves make, but has left open many more questions which need answering urgently. As it stands, it will not improve access to or quality of social care services, or provide an uplift on care worker pay, in the here and now which would better support people to live the lives they want to lead and in turn strengthen our communities.

“We need a cast iron commitment from government that the white paper, together with the Spending Review will result in a long term plan and a steady stream of investment into social care. It is vital we understand what proportion, if any, of the future funding from the levy is set aside for this purpose, for the benefit of the millions of people who work in and draw upon social care.

“The bulk of the cost of publicly funded social care is already met through council tax. Increases in council tax, including the social care precept, has always been a sticking plaster solution to a complex funding problem and should not be relied upon further. Increasing council tax to pay for social care is a double whammy for hard-pressed residents, who may feel they are shelling out twice for a service now that the levy is being introduced.

“The Spending Review should be used to set this plan straight and provide upfront, desperately needed new funding to meet immediate demands and pressures in our care system so that people can live their best life. The government must see this as investment in people – in all of us.”

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