NHS and Brexit – or social care? Time to get our priorities straight
are watching both the demand and cost of social care increase above the rate of funding.
On current financial plans councils say there will be an £8 billion funding gap by 2025 if they maintain services at the current level.
They have seen huge increases in child protection investigations – about 500 a day across the country, and in England alone they got 1.8 million new applications for adult social care last year.
At the same time several councils, most famously Northamptonshire, are going broke.
Despite running huge deficits Birmingham has a scale, income and asset base which means it has been able to raid contingency funds and divert cash to avert a similar crisis.
It has also had to increase funding to children’s social services in response to its persistent failure to protect vulnerable children over the past decade.
However, there is an ongoing care workers’ strike in the city and there are warnings of more fallout if further cuts are implemented. The Labourrun council argues that the changes will both improve the service and save money.
At least Birmingham is no longer disadvantaged by a local government funding formula under which it was shouldering proportionately more of the cuts than southern suburban councils which have much lower rates of deprivation and fewer demands on social care services.
The Local Government Associa- tion, under both Conservative and now Labour leadership, has been highlighting the crisis for several years now and warning of cases like Northamptonshire.
LGA finance lead and London councillor Richard Watts made an early plea to Chancellor Phillip Hammond ahead of his autumn budget.
He said: “Councils are increasingly having to divert money from other services to meet an unprecedented surge in demand for children’s and adult social care.
“More and more councils are struggling to balance their books. The next Spending Review will be make or break for local services and must recognise the urgent need to tackle the funding gap facing local government.
“Councils have shouldered more than their fair share of austerity and have tried to reduce any impact on residents, but there is only so much they can do and the financial challenges they face are growing.”
The LGA is drawing up its own proposals, a green paper, for the future of social care.
This is partly to fill the void left by Government which, despite commissioning the Dilnot Report, making proposals for closer working with the NHS and of course the ill-fated dementia tax, has failed to make the radical overhaul of social care that most experts and councils have been calling for.
Of course, with the national finances in better shape, Mr Hammond is expected to offer a better deal to the NHS, or put some aside for Brexit fallout. But perhaps the social care sector should be near the top of his list.
> Phillip Hammond must address the social care crisis at local level