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BLOG: Integration with health will not be the answer to the social care funding crisis

BASW Professional Officer Joe Godden assesses how the Care Act is working in practice.

The Care sector is in crisis and it isn’t just care providers saying this. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee recently published a report entitled Care Act First-phase Reforms and Local Government New Burdens. The report highlighted concern that “carers and the people they care for may not get the services they need because of continuing reductions to local authority budgets and demand for care being so uncertain”. The PAC committee also expressed concern about “the Government’s ability to identify individual local authorities that are struggling and to respond quickly enough” and said the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) “has not been sufficiently open and transparent in identifying and assessing new burdens on local authorities (like the Care Act) or reviewing their impact”. The committee urged the DCLG to ensure these new burdens are reviewed and for Government to “ensure funding is monitored as it beds in so that carers and the people they care for do not lose out”.

The experience of social workers who are implementing the Care Act is that although the principles are supported, there are real issues concerning the availability of funding to implement the Act. In the latest spending review and autumn statement, Chancellor George Osborne permitted local authorities to raise Council tax by up to 2% to help fund social care, but this is predicted to exacerbate inequality as Councils serving people in poorer areas will be able to raise proportionally less funds. The Better Care Fund (money re-distributed from health budgets) will, and is, helping with hospital discharges, but is nowhere near enough and people are prevented from going home because of the crisis in many parts of the country in home care and residential care. One social worker recently told us “I go from one situation to another basically looking for cuts to services, it is soul destroying”. Responding to the Spending review, Chair of the Care and Support Alliance Vicky McDermott, said the review had “failed its social care test” and George Osborne had failed to provide the social care system with a secure long term economic plan. 

BASW is really pleased that the sector voice is getting stronger, with ‘social care’ being given parity with health care by many media and other commentators. We need as a profession to continue that pressure to ensure the people we work with who have care and support needs, have those needs met. ’Integration’ with health is often mooted as the answer to the funding crisis but it isn’t. There is a crisis in Northern Ireland and they have used integrated budgets for decades. Similarly, there are those who say the only way to tackle the challenges is to adopt a community approach to social work. While that may prevent or delay some people requiring statutory services, for many who need concrete help with personal care now, no amount of informal care in the community will meet their needs.

The House of Lords has prepared a Library Note giving an overview of recent developments in relation to the cap on care costs and an overview of stakeholder views on the quality and viability of the residential care sector in light of the pressures facing the sector.

To read the House of Lords Library Note click HERE