Social care is on its knees. We all have a stake in its future

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It seems we are running out of ways to convey to the government the level of crisis that now exists in social care.

The care system has been described as “at a tipping point”, in “a deeper existential crisis”, part of a “humanitarian crisis” and, more recently, “on its knees”. Health and care leaders have pleaded with government ministers to put extra funding into social care, with some even seeing it as the priority ahead of extra funding for the NHS. Local government leaders point to a funding gap of £2.6bn by 2020 and rightly say that funding the growing needs of an ageing population cannot be left to the council taxpayer alone.

Council leaders also remind us that the social care crisis is not just about older people. There are many other groups needing social care, including people with learning disabilities. People may be surprised to learn that about a third of councils’ annual social care spending, approximately £5bn, goes on supporting adults with learning disabilities.

The crisis in social care is caused by insufficient funding in the face of growing need. Cuts to council budgets have led to losses to adult social care budgets estimated by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to be £5.5bn by the end of this financial year. Many councils have had to deal with cuts to their budgets of 40% or more since 2010. They have also faced additional costs from the Care Act passed in 2014, the introduction of the national living wage for the care sector and continued rising demand for care.

The Kings Fund has recently said that adult social care is “rapidly becoming little more than a threadbare safety net for the poorest and most needy older and disabled people”. As we approach the budget and with talk of some additional funding for social care, it is time to ask ourselves if we accept this.

There are 400,000 fewer adults who now have publicly funded social care compared with 2010. Age UK tells us that 1.2 million older people have to manage without the care and support they need to manage daily activities. If we add taking medication and shopping for food, one in eight of the entire older population now lives with some level of care and support not being met.

Cuts to social care budgets hit people who need care but they also hit the 6.5 million unpaid family carers and 1.4 million people in the care workforce. Despite the efforts of many hard-working care staff, standards of care are falling. The Care Quality Commission says that more than a quarter of care homes require improvement or are inadequate and this rises to 41% of nursing homes.

The talk is that the chancellor will put money into social care across two years in the budget. It is suggested that this funding be linked to council’s performance on handling delayed discharges.

A measure that involves hundreds of millions this year for social care will be a “sticking plaster” solution that does not go far enough to solve the crisis in funding. The King’s Fund puts the funding gap at nearer £2bn for 2017-18 and Labour is calling on the government to make this money available in the budget on Wednesday.

The issues to be solved in social care go much further than social care for frail older people. They also go beyond improving the picture on delayed transfers of care from hospital. The crisis in social care this winter means that it is time we asked some more fundamental questions about what we want from a decent and fair social care system and how that can be funded in the long term.

These questions must include considering all the groups who need social care. They must include better support for unpaid family carers including respite care, carers’ breaks and a review of financial support for carers. They must also include improvements in the pay, terms and conditions of the paid care workforce and better training and career progression to help recruit and keep staff in the care sector.

We all have a stake in creating that decent and fair social care system we would want to see for our own relatives and friends.

This article was sourced from http://newsquizextra.com