NHS and council leaders slam Autumn Statement’s lack of social care cash

23 Nov 16

Council and NHS leaders have lamented today’s Autumn Statement as a ‘missed opportunity’ to allay the burgeoning health and social care funding crisis.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said the statement was “conspicuous for what it left out”, highlighting the lack of commitment for social care, which he said is “in danger of missing out on the benefits of city deals and devolution”.

Both the Local Government Association and the NHS Confederation also criticised chancellor Phillip Hammond’s decision to completely omit the social care from his spending and tax announcements this afternoon.

The overstretched sector is in dire need of more resources, while additional funding for this kind of care could help ease the burden on the struggling NHS, council and NHS leaders said.

Stephen Dalton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said it is an “economic deception” to rely on political rhetoric that promises to protect the NHS but fails to acknowledge that a cut in social care costs the health service too.

The government announced billions in extra funding for the NHS in March this year – although the exact figure is being hotly debated.

Local authorities have instead been permitted to increase council tax in order to raise extra funds for adult social care – a response the sector has described as woefully inadequate.

Dalton said frontline staff would find it difficult to stomach that the new chancellor has also “turned a blind eye” to the pressure they are under and failed to even bring any existing funding forward.

Hammond referenced the health sector only in passing, to applaud the debated billions already introduced by his predecessor George Osborne in March, before swiftly moving on to announce increases to the national living wage.

Richard Murray, director of policy at the King’s Fund, said while welcome, this would add to the costs of local authorities and social care providers, “making an already fragile market even more unstable”.

Both Murray and Ray James, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, warned of the impact this “failure” would have on the almost 2 million elderly and vulnerable people who rely on care and support.

Lord Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, agreed it was “unacceptable” that Hammond had not addressed the “desperate need” for action, despite councils, the NHS, charities and care providers making this clear.

He said social care services were at “breaking point” and additional tax-raising powers and new money at the end of the decade would not alleviate immediate pressures.

The LGA predicts an “extremely challenging” few years ahead for councils, who face an estimated £5.8bn funding gap by 2020.

“Even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes they will not have enough money to plug this gap by the end of the decade,” Porter said.

He called on the government to allow local authorities to use extra business rates income to plug this growing funding gap and to publish the Local Government Finance Settlement as soon as possible to give councils “more time to plan for the difficult funding decisions which lie ahead”.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Hopes were raised the chancellor would conjure up extra cash for social care, and ease the burden on the NHS and local councils struggling to keep a lid on the growing crisis.

“Instead the government has chosen to ignore social care, preferring to look the other way as a growing number of elderly people are getting no care at all.”

Prentis also criticised the fact that the new chancellor had left Osborne’s austerity plan “very much intact”, retaining the freeze on public sector wages that limited pay increases to 1% and causes “real financial hardship”.

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