Austerity is not over for those who rely on social care

21 Dec 18

This year was another missed opportunity for the government to fix the adult social care system - it can not duck this important issue in 2019, the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Glen Garrod says. 

 

At the Conservative Party Conference in October, the prime minister indicated that austerity was coming to an end.

This perspective was echoed by the chancellor in his Budget speech a month later. It is clear they were not referring to social care.

As another new year approaches, once again we are left wondering when austerity will end for people (some 2 million) who need the care and support that social care provides.

The recent provisional local government finance settlement, which reiterated money already announced in the Budget, offered nothing new for adult social care and yet again there is another delay to the long awaited and well overdue adult social care green paper.

I’m certainly not the first ADASS president to warn of the detrimental impact of the chronic underfunding of adult social care.

Sadly I don’t think I will be the last either. There is a fundamental flaw, something badly wrong, where in a supposedly wealthy, developed country, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are made to continue bearing the brunt of austerity.

The society we now live in is seeing increasing levels of homelessness, mental ill health, unmet need exists for some 1.4 million older people and loneliness is an increasing concern; and these are just some of a longer list of associated issues.

Many reflect the consequence of an impoverished social care system within an impoverished local government. Social care is about working alongside people to help them to get a good life and support people living in the poorest areas, who are often impacted the most.


‘The perennial question of how do we deliver a long-term sustainable funding solution for adult social care appears to be one the government does not want to answer.’


The perennial question of how do we deliver a long-term sustainable funding solution for adult social care appears to be one the government does not want to answer. Though it is in good company as no government going back to the beginning of the millennium seems able – or willing to make the necessary bold choices.

This is a can that has been kicked down the road for too long.

Increasing numbers of older and disabled people are being put at risk and social care is being left in an increasingly perilous state as a result of government inaction. And I would add to this the NHS as well.

If the government wants a thriving NHS then it needs to invest in social care, which is what helps keep people out of hospital and from needing NHS treatment in the first place.

My colleague directors of adult social care have been clear that the system is at breaking point and have serious concerns about whether the funding currently available will be enough to enable them to meet their legal duties to provide care and support for older and disabled people.

We know that on average each council will overspend their adult social care budget by almost £900,000 in 2018/19, a total of £136 million overall. This is set against a backdrop of ongoing austerity – with £700 million to be saved in adult social care this year and a further £500 million next.

Our recent autumn snap survey found nearly nine in 10 directors of adult social care services are either partly or not confident in meeting their legal duties relating to market sustainability by the end of 2019/20. Adult social care lies in a critical state.

But we are an optimistic crew (it does help): 2019 promises a Spending Review.

This will be a huge indication as to what the long-term direction for adult social care will be and, of course we should have a green paper publication.

With upfront investment from government, adult social care could deliver a greater level of more cost-effective community-based care, which most importantly is what people want and leads to better outcomes, transformed lives and stronger communities.

The year 2018 was yet another missed opportunity to heed the sector-wide calls to tackle this issue that is having such a devastating impact on the citizens of this country. 

In 2019, the government cannot continue to duck this any longer. We now need a level of political, cross-party leadership to deliver a long-term sustainable funding solution. 

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