Adult social care funding move 'applies sticking plaster to crisis'
The Government has been accused of applying a "sticking plaster" solution to the crisis in adult social care, after announcing £900 million of new funding over the next two years.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said local authorities in England will be able to hike council tax bills by a total of 6% over the period to raise £652 million for social care, while a further £240 million will come from a new Government support grant with money taken from the new homes bonus scheme.
But the cash was described as "a drop in the ocean" by the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) of charities, while Labour and unions warned it would create a "postcode lottery" as council tax increases raise more in rich areas than more disadvantaged ones.
If taken up in full by town halls, the 3% "social care precept" for the years 2017/18 and 2018/19 would add a total £90 to the bill for average Band D property. But Mr Javid said they would have to be followed by a 0% precept in 2019/20, meaning there was no overall increase over a three-year period
Unveiling the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2017/18 in the House of Commons, Mr Javid said the Government was working on long-term reforms to provide a "sustainable" system for everyone who needs social care. The new funding would bring to £7.6 billion the total dedicated funding for social care over four years, he said.
But the president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace), Jo Miller, said that the extra money would not provide a long-term solution to problems in the £14 billion adult social care system. Ahead of the new announcement, councils were warning the system was heading for a £2.6 billion shortfall in 2020.
"Simply robbing Peter to pay Paul will not tackle a systemic funding problem. This needs a long-term national solution that does not simply exacerbate existing imbalances," said Ms Miller.
And CSA chair Vicky McDermott said: " This temporary injection of cash is a drop in the ocean and does nothing to solve the long-term challenges facing the system.
"This Government needs to urgently look at a long-term funding solution to create a care system that we all want to see, which ensures: there are beds in care homes for people who need it; that home care gives people dignity in their own home; that carers don't have to work themselves into ill-health to care for their family; and that hospitals don't have to prop up a falling system."
In a speech to an NHS rally in London on Thursday evening, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was due to accuse ministers of "passing the buck, dodging the blame and handing the bill to those who can least afford it".
Mr Corbyn will say: "Raising council tax to pay for social care means the Government doesn't have to pay a penny. This Tory Government is letting down older people. Billions are available for tax giveaways to corporations while many elderly people are left without support because of Government cuts to social care."
Figures from the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) suggested that the value of a 3% precept would vary wildly across the country, with those having small elderly populations benefiting the most.
The east London borough of Tower Hamlets, where only 6% of the population is over 65, could raise £160 for each elderly person, the think tank found. But in West Somerset, which has a 32% elderly population, a 3% precept would raise only £53 for each over-65.
ILC-UK head of economics Ben Franklin described the announcement as "spin not substance", adding: "Simply raising the precept will be nowhere near adequate to meeting the care needs of the UK's ageing population and will exacerbate the extreme postcode lottery that already exists for people trying to access care services. The promise that local authorities can keep the new homes bonus is a sticking plaster on top of a sticking plaster."
Rehana Azam, of the GMB, said that mo rale was "at an all-time low" among the union's members in the care sector. "This half-baked response from Government will apply more crushing pressure to their already difficult roles in caring for the elderly and the most vulnerable in society," she said. "Now we will all pay the price for this social care postcode lottery - today's announcement is a disaster and the Prime Minister needs to step up and address this."
Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "This social care tax rise is a gutless stealth tax rise that has been created by the Government but left to councils to shake down the poorest in society for more cash."
"Letting councils put up taxes will raise some money in some areas - but we face a national crisis. This isn't about councils' being able to supplement essential care, it is about providing it and that needs proper funding from central government."