“One of the many downsides of Brexit is that for the last two years or more it has sucked all the energy out of the Westminster policy making process, with the result that other problems are being ignored. It is a major opportunity cost. There are plenty of examples, but adult social care is probably the most glaring. Experts agree the situation is in crisis. The Conservatives floated some audacious plans in their manifesto, but they proved electorally toxic and since then they have gone silent on the topic, putting off announcements until the much-delayed green paper due later this year. Labour’s own plans are sketchy and, understandably, they are reluctant to propose reforms that will involve higher when the government won’t take the initiative itself.
So all credit to the cross-party Local Government Association that is today floating plans in a green paper (pdf) to raise taxes to put care funding on a sustainable footing. With councils in England receiving almost 5,000 new requests a day for adult social care, the LGA says this is essential.
Since 2010 councils have had to bridge a £6bn funding shortfall just to keep the adult social care system going. In addition the LGA estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8m new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day.
Decades of failures to find a sustainable solution to how to pay for adult social care for the long-term, and the Government’s recent decision to delay its long-awaited green paper on the issue until the autumn, has prompted council leaders to take action.
Short-term cash injections have not prevented care providers reluctantly closing their operations or returning contracts to councils and less choice and availability to a rising number of people with care needs. This is increasing the strain on an already-overstretched workforce and unpaid carers, and leading to more people not having their care needs met.
Increased spend on adult social care – which now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of total council budgets – is threatening the future of other vital council services, such as parks, leisure centres and libraries, which help to keep people well and from needing care and support and hospital treatment.
The LGA is publishing its green paper to start a public debate on how adult social care could be properly funded. There’s a summary here: