United Response argue that now is the time for appropriate funding for the care sector following the publication of the Care and Support white paper.
Although there are many commendable things in the white paper and draft social care legislation unveiled by health secretary Andrew Lansley this afternoon, it leaves the big question unanswered: how are we going to fund a system that is currently falling apart? The greatly-anticipated and even-more-greatly-delayed publication of the government’s plans for social care reform resolve many long-standing problems within the system, but not the biggest of all: how to fund it in a way that meets ever-increasing demand.
Let’s firstly recognise those elements of the government’s plans that are encouraging. Measures to tackle the “postcode lottery” in social care are essential and welcome. Similarly, the anachronistic problem of “ordinary residence” – which often restricted the freedom of movement of people who received support – is to finally be tackled. In addition, the £300 million in joint funding between the NHS and social care to support better integration of these services is valuable, but is a drop in the ocean compared to the shortfall of £1.89 billion announced by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services last month.
This absence of any substantial new funding cannot be ignored. The new plans lay down in principle some essential foundations for a fairer, more durable social care system, but without more resources that system cannot be built. The minimum level of care announced today by Lansley sounds excellent in principle but will only work if it is set at the right level (not excluding people with more moderate disabilities, as many predict) and is adequately funded.
Many older and disabled people will have prepared themselves for today’s disappointment over the last months of repeated delay, but that won’t make it any easier to cope with. The coalition government took the excellent early step of commissioning economist Andrew Dilnot to assess the state of our deteriorating social care system and provide recommendations on how to fund it more effectively and fairly in the future. He completed his report and published his recommendations over one year ago.
Unfortunately, today’s white paper, draft legislation and progress report make it clear that the government is not prepared to support his key recommendation of injecting £1.7 billion into the social care system annually. In the progress report, the government states that “whilst (implementing Dilnot) is the right thing to do, given the size of the structural deficit and the economic situation the country faces, the government is unable to commit to introducing a new system at this stage.”
This is, as the social care sector has consistently argued over the last few years, a false economy. Failing to fund the system properly now means that more and more people lose support, which means their mental and physical health may deteriorate and they will require more costly state intervention later.