Councils call for billions of pounds to be diverted from NHS to social care

Town halls in England are calling for billions of pounds a year earmarked for the NHS to be diverted to social care amid warnings of severe care worker shortages and hundreds of thousands of people not getting the help they need.

Robert Booth 

The cross-party Local Government Association wants a rethink of the government policy announced in October, which is to reserve 85% of receipts from the new 1.25% health and social care tax for the health service. It warned the measures, announced to deliver Boris Johnson’s promise to “fix social care”, fail to deal with “immediate, frontline pressures facing care services right now”.

The demand “to immediately redirect a significantly greater share of the levy to frontline adult social care” comes amid concern the social care crisis is preventing hospital discharges amid rising Omicron admissions. A four-star hotel in Bristol has become the latest makeshift care home to be pressed into action, after NHS England’s chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, told hospital bosses to use hotel beds to prevent discharge blockages when conventional community care is unavailable.

Across the UK, almost half of homecare providers also now say they can no longer take on new work, with worker shortages a key problem. A total of 38% said they were handing back contracts to councils and the NHS because they could no longer deliver, a survey by the Homecare Association found. Meanwhile, 95% of the largest private care home chains are struggling to find care staff, according to a poll published on Tuesday by the industry group Care England.

Ministers have said the new national insurance levy starting in April 2022 would deliver £12bn a year for the NHS and social care, but only £1.7bn would go to social care. The LGA has calculated that councils need up to £9.5bn a year more by 2025 to cover unmet care packages, increase pay and finance care homes fairly.

“We recognise the NHS faces a significant backlog which needs to be tackled, but so does social care, which faces huge challenges in addressing unmet and under-met need, workforce shortages and care worker pay,” said David Fothergill, the Conservative leader of Somerset county council and chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board. “Otherwise we are building towards a future based on inadequate foundations.”

He added: “This means some people cannot access any or as much of the care as they need, impacting upon their quality of life, and also has a direct knock-on effect on getting people out of hospital and into their homes and communities, which is both bad for the individual and for the health service.”

The latest hotel to be used as a care facility is the city-centre Bristol hotel, which is due to start taking patients from hospitals in Bristol, north Somerset and south Gloucestershire from Wednesday. Up to 30 patients will be discharged into rooms on one floor, supported by live-in staff on another. Local health chiefs describe it as “a temporary care facility” to “release much-needed hospital beds” with “rising Omicron cases likely to add to further strain in the coming weeks”.

At least three other hotels have been pressed into use in the south of England, including in Plymouth, despite concerns they do not match care home conditions. The operator, Abicare, said it has been recruiting live-in workers from Spain, Greece and African countries who already have rights to work in the UK.

The Health Foundation thinktank has calculated that funding for social care needs to increase by £4.8bn a year to stabilise the system and £9.3bn a year to enable it to recover. Under the government’s plan, most of the additional £1.7bn a year will cover the cost of the new £86,000 cap on lifetime care bills, aimed at ensuring people who pay for their own care are not forced to sell their homes.

“What the government is proposing to inject into social care is nowhere near enough to address the issues,” said Mike Padgham, the chair of the Independent Care Group, which represents care operators in Yorkshire. “Some £8bn has been cut from social care budgets since 2010 … Financial cutback after financial cutback has left the provision of care in tatters.”

Last week, ministers announced an additional £300m to fund retention bonuses for care staff amid an exodus of workers, but with payments so far only allowing for bonuses ranging from £60 to £150 a worker, and operators fear the additional funds may have limited impact.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

Dry rot hell at luxury newly-built (but long delayed) Exeter home

“Caveat emptor” from Grenadier – Owl

Anita Merritt

A prestigious development of a former private school into luxury homes has been hailed ‘a nightmare’ by a homeowner who says he has been left to foot a £50,000 dry rot bill.

Simon Firth and his family were the first to move into St Margaret’s Residence in St Leonard’s in September 2019, and ever since he says they have endured numerous problems with their four-bedroom property.

Exeter-based developer Grenadier was granted planning permission for the site to be turned into housing in 2014. However, it took years before it finally started work to build an ‘exclusive development’ of 35 apartments and four townhouses with the first phase finally ready in late 2019.

Just a month after moving into their three-storey home, Simon says the ground floor flooded when its main water inlet disconnected. Simon claims the fault was due to it not being fitted properly and there was no stopcock inside the property to initially stem the flow of the water.

The damage and issue was rectified and paid for by Grenadier but three weeks after the incident during a spell of heavy rainfall, water began seeping in through the front walls of all floors of the property.

Grenadier rendered the whole property to solve the problem but then had to return to the property when there were further problems with its pipework.

A series of problems have been encountered by the first family who moved into St Margaret's Residence in Exeter

A series of problems have been encountered by the first family who moved into St Margaret’s Residence in Exeter (Image: Simon Firth)

Simon, a father-of-two, says that holes in the walls still remain since and form part of a snagging list that remains unsolved.

However, the biggest issue with the property that came to light earlier this year is dry rot.

Simon said: “The developers were given a quote of £50,000 to put it right but then another issue came to light; the developer’s insurance – which should have been in place – was never activated as they did not provide the right documents to the insurance company.

“I don’t think it would have covered dry rot anyway. We were told to sort it out through our insurance, but we were reliant on the developer’s insurance and the chances are it wouldn’t have covered it anyway.

“I’m having to look into getting the money to do it ourselves because the developer has now completely walked away from us as is giving us no support whatsoever.

The damaged ceiling of Simon Firth's home at St Margarets Residence in Exeter

The damaged ceiling of Simon Firth’s home at St Margarets Residence in Exeter (Image: Simon Firth)

“It’s a lovely property, but there have been major issues that don’t just arrive overnight and they are not cheap houses. Grenadier is award-winning but has offered no contribution to it.

“The experts say the dry rot has been there for a while. It needs water to develop and we have had quite a lot of that in the property in the last two years.

“Grenadier’s legal team do not think they have legal liability and we will have to test that, but it will take months, perhaps years. We think they at least have a moral liability to help given the circumstances.”

In hindsight, Simon says he does have some regrets.

He said: “We did not have a full structural survey when buying our home. Was that a mistake? Probably yes because it might have picked up some of the issues we have experienced.”

St Margaret’s Residences was recently awarded Residential Development of the Year and Grenadier was named Best Developer 2021 at the Exeter Property Awards. It recently achieved a UK First for achieving an Energy Performance Certification (EPC) ‘A’ on a Grade II listed building.

A spokesperson for Grenadier said: “At Grenadier we pride ourselves on providing sustainable, high-quality homes with exceptional customer service.

“As for any well-established property developer, we provide snagging services and work to fulfil these quickly.

“Grenadier continues working closely with the property residents to support them with snagging.”

Originally built as single houses, the site was acquired by St Margaret’s and converted into a school in the 1920s.

The Grade II listed building has been redeveloped into new energy-efficient homes with an emphasis on preserving and restoring features within the buildings such as elegant staircases, old marble fireplaces, Edwardian stained-glass windows and ornate ironwork banisters.

Major housing plans for South Hams village outlined – 30% affordables 

Plans to build 120 homes – including plenty of affordable properties – in a Devon village have been unveiled by developers.

These are detailed plans, following outline planing consent. Can the developer be held to these numbers of affordables? – Owl

Lewis Clarke 

Newton Abbot-based housebuilder Baker Estates has submitted detailed plans to South Hams District Council for sites in Dartington. The two sites – at Broom Park and Sawmills – were granted outline planning consent in April 2020.

The developer has completed a period of consultation on both sites, including a public exhibition, which was hosted to provide the community with the opportunity to comment and express its views on the proposals.

In total 80 homes are proposed at Broom Park with a further 40 at Sawmills and, in both cases, 30 per cent would be affordable and available to local families either for shared ownership or affordable rent.

The inclusion of the affordable homes in the village, which has a population of around 870, has been welcomed by local officials.

Cllr Judy Pearce, executive member for housing and leader of South Hams District Council, said: “The lack of affordable homes in our area has reached crisis point but it is not enough to simply build more houses – we need high quality homes that respect our local heritage and the natural environment too.

“The best way to build homes that meet our local needs is to get the community involved and listen carefully to what local people want.

“This suite of national awards won is testament to the fact that Baker Estates are achieving high quality results because of their approach to engaging with communities, customer service, and build quality – and I congratulate them thoroughly.”

Devon housebuilder submits detailed plans for two new housing developments in Dartington

A range of one, two, three, four and five bedroom homes including apartments and bungalows will feature in the plans.

Mark Edwards, head of development at Baker Estates, said: “An extensive public consultation exercise is at the very heart of how we have moved forward with our designs and local people were keen to offer their views on how our planning application should be shaped.

“Opinion was diverse on key topics such as sustainable living, architectural styles and landscape plans, with many differing views expressed as to the right approach.

“However, there was broad support for the provision of land allotments at Broom Park and for the woodland to be publicly accessible.

“We are also pleased to have been able to respond directly to comments about the need for green spaces on both schemes. This is particularly evident at Broom Park with inclusion of orchard planting.”

The starting point which has shaped both schemes is ecology, with the retention and protection of important bat flyways around the edge of each site.

This has led the design team to incorporate extensive areas of green open space into both schemes, ensuring that 10m and 20m bat corridors have been embedded into the layout at the outset whilst balancing recreational requirements and sensitively responding to the environment and neighbouring properties.

A different design approach has been taken for each site, with a contemporary approach for Sawmills reflecting the adjacent development and a more traditional design feel for Broom Park with cottage style windows and some barn style units.

Graham Hutton, development director at Baker Estates, added: “Overall, we believe our proposal represents a sensible proposition in an established and sustainable location.

“If approved by South Hams District Council, this will be an outstanding housing scheme for the area.

“We now have a number of legacy developments in Devon which have won regional and national awards and we aim to deliver homes of similar quality for the Dartington community.”

Devon business leader urges PM to ‘get a grip’

“Anyone with half a brain can see what’s going to happen. But stop making these fluffy announcements and be clear so that businesses can make the right decisions and survive.”

Colleen Smith

A Devon business leader has called on the Government to “get a grip” and start taking decisive measures – including a new lockdown and a furlough scheme for businesses.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that no further Covid restrictions will be put in place before Christmas, saying there is currently not enough evidence on the severity of Omicron, the hospitalisation rate and the impact of the booster rollout to justify tougher measures ahead of December 25.

Earlier today, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled £6,000 one-off bailout loans to pubs and restaurants who have seen their Christmas trade wiped out as people stay away to avoid fast-rising Covid numbers.

Hospitality firms had been begging the Government for more support as dire warnings over the spread of Omicron had seen pubs, restaurants and music venues hit with “lockdown by stealth”.

Susie Colley, the chairman of the Torquay Chamber of Trade, has now called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “take the flak” from his own party and do what’s best for the country as a whole.

She said: “This new Omicron surge is already affecting businesses badly.

“Are the Government going to come back and furlough people? Loans are no good – people will never be able to repay them.

“The Government need to be clear and concise and yes they need to lockdown and save lives and save the NHS from collapse.

“Yes, it will push the country further into the red – but at least we will be alive to come out the other end.

“I desperately want to see my daughter – but I would rather wait and see her in the summer, if I’m alive and she’s alive. If we carry on the way we’re going, that’s not going to happen.

“If you’re the leader of the country, you’re not there to make friends or keep businesses happy. You have to steer the boat through this huge storm which could go on into 2023.

“Stop vacillating. Stop being woolly. The decisions have to be made now and a great leader will be prepared to take the flak from his own party.

“Get a grip Boris. The scientists are telling us that because of the virulent nature of Omicron it’s doubling every one and a half days.

“Anyone with half a brain can see what’s going to happen. But stop making these fluffy announcements and be clear so that businesses can make the right decisions and survive.”

Bars and restaurants are quiet as people fear the spread of Omicron in the run-up to Christmas.

The Chancellor has today come forward with additional help for the hospitality and leisure sectors in England following days of urgent lobbying from MPs, firms and industry officials.

It includes one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the affected sectors in England, which the Treasury expects will be administered by local authorities and to be available in the coming weeks.

The Government also intends to use taxpayers’ cash to cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for firms with fewer than 250 employees.

Cultural organisations in England can also access a further £30 million funding during the winter via the culture recovery fund, the Treasury said.

Cabinet ministers are at loggerheads over post-Christmas restrictions, with a two-hour meeting of the Prime Minister’s top team reportedly exploding into a row yesterday.

Mr Sunak’s announcement has been branded as a “holding package” by opposition leaders, who have accused the Government of being indecisive.

Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Pat McFadden said: “This is a holding package from a Government caught in a holding position.

“The Prime Minister is a prisoner of divisions inside his party and within the Cabinet about whether any further measures are needed and whether they will get past Tory backbenchers. That is not the way that crucial public health decisions should be taken.

“Labour has been calling for an economic support plan for businesses affected by a wave of pre-Christmas cancellations.

“Support is welcome to see but we will be going through the details of this announcement to see which business and workers are included and excluded.

“Business support should have been announced when the Plan B changes were voted on last week but it has only happened after the Chancellor was dragged back from California to focus on the plight facing businesses and workers here in the UK.

“The real question after yesterday’s indecisive Cabinet meeting is what will happen next, when will the country be informed of that and will support for businesses and workers be placed alongside any further public health measures that might be announced.”

The trade body Hospitality UK has reported that many businesses have lost 40% to 60% of their December trade – at what is usually firms’ busiest month.

Speaking in a pre-recorded message to the nation which was released at 5pm today, Mr Johnson said: “There is no doubt that Omicron continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before.

“The situation remains extremely difficult but I also recognise that people have been waiting to hear whether their Christmas plans are going to be affected.

“So what I can say tonight, is that naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.

“We continue to monitor Omicron very closely and if the situation deteriorates we will be ready to take action if needed.”