The Autumn Budget was silent on social care. There has been much in the news about the immense pressure being put on the NHS due to beds being blocked as a consequence of a lack of community social care services.
There was, therefore, much anticipation about what would be contained within what has been billed as the last Spring Budget.
In his address, Philip Hammond paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of carers who work in our social care system. He highlighted the principle that everyone has access to the NHS when they need it and that everyone should enjoy security and dignity in old age.
He acknowledged the pressure that the social care system is under and that, consequently, this puts pressure on the NHS.
Reference was made to our aging population being the reason behind the government having “already delivered more than £7 billion extra spending power to the system over the next three years”.
It was announced that additional grant funding of £2 billion was being committed to social care in England over the next 3 years with £1 billion to be available 2017-2018. This is to “allow local authorities to act now to commission new care packages”. It was said that this would free up hospital beds by enabling the discharge of elderly patients.
There was also mention of work to be done with social care and health to ensure “more joined up working”.
There is concern that the additional funding committed by the government will not plug the social care funding gap and is a drop in the ocean that is only likely to have some short term impact.
In a discussion paper ‘Distinctive, Valued, Personal: Why Social Care Matters, The Next Five Years’ published in March 2015 by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass)it stated that a protected settlement of at least £4.3 billion was required by 2020 for social care to plug the funding gap. This was said to be in addition to the extra £8 billion per year that the NHS said was needed by 2020.
It appears that, currently, there is no clear long term plan for funding social care. The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the government would be setting out its thinking on the options for future financing in a Green Paper later this year.
The Care Act 2014 came into force in April 2015 significantly reforming the law relating to care and support for adults. Despite the ambitions of the Act, previous cuts to local authority funding have led to councils making difficult decisions in relation to social care. Without adequate funding in place, the aspirations of the Care Act will not be met and there is risk that local authorities will be unable to meet their basic legal duties.
So, although the elephant in the room, the underfunding of social care, has now finally been addressed by the government, many people’s fears about the future of social care and the NHS have not been alleviated by Mr Hammond’s statement. There is a further waiting game as to what will be done in the long term to try to secure these essential services required by many of the most vulnerable in our society.
At GT Stewart Solicitors and Advocates we have a community care legal aid contract. We are able to assess whether you may be eligible for free advice. Alternatively, we can act on a private basis and we are happy to consider completing work on a fixed fee basis.
If you would like more information or advice on local authorities’ duties under the Care Act if you have a disability or health condition or if you are a carer or relative, please contact Tracey Ling in our Community Care Team at GT Stewart on 0113 222 4888.