NHS and Brexit – or so­cial care? Time to get our pri­or­i­ties straight

Birmingham Post - - FEATURE -

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

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