The lack of investment in social care in Chancellor George Osborne’s Spending Review has been branded “a disgrace” by the chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).
In the review, Osborne said there will be a new social care “precept” in council tax of up to 2% to allow local councils to raise £2 billion for social care, and the Better Care Social Fund will be increased by 1.9%. He also announced an extra £600 million for mental health care.
But Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, said the social care funding settlement was “woefully inadequate” and did not go far enough to address problems in the sector.
“The spending review offered government a chance to put social care funding back on track financially yet this important opportunity has been lost. There is very little in the announcement to be welcomed by providers of voluntary sector disability services.
“Government’s failure to invest in social care is a disgrace: 1.9 million people require social care and at this time of unprecedented demand for services, coupled with financial austerity, fewer and fewer disabled people are eligible for support. This unmet need is now set to significantly increase.
“Inadequate resources will force care providers to cut services or cease operating altogether, leading to an increased pressure on NHS emergency and hospital services. The welcome investment in the NHS will vanish before our eyes. At this time, more than ever, we need to build constructive relationships between CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] and local authority commissioners and disability organisations.”
Hughes added that the measure to allow local authorities to raise up to £2 billion by 2019/20 also does not go far enough. “The precept in council tax… detracts from the reality that £6 billion is immediately required to fund adult social care. Demand for social care is higher in poorer areas, and with concerns about local and regional market failure, government needs to be alert to the fact that social care markets could fold,” he said.
Hughes also voiced concerns over the planned introduction of the national living wage and the effect this could have on social care providers. “The introduction of the national living wage, if properly funded, should have enabled providers to invest in their workforce by building careers in the sector, recruiting and retaining the right staff and paying people at a rate that recognises the value of the work they do. The local authority tax and better care fund get us no-where close to meeting this growing pay bill. Government must now expect reductions in service and workforce development and a contraction in the market. The opportunity to build a strong, capable workforce has been missed, and the system must now concentrate on managing subsequent risks to service quality.”
Jan Tregelles, CEO of learning disability charity Mencap, agreed that the Spending Review did not go far enough in terms of social care spending: “The care system is critically under-funded. Many people with a learning disability are not getting the vital care and support they need, so are stuck at home with nothing to do, isolated and scared about the future.
“The 2% council tax boost to social care and the money that has been made available to the Better Care Fund do not go far or fast enough to address the funding crisis. In addition, we expected to see additional funding to meet the government commitment around the National Living Wage. The majority of the additional money is therefore likely to go on implementing the National Living Wage rather than expanding access to care.
“The Chancellor has not done enough to prevent the social care sector moving closer to collapse. This would have devastating consequences on people with a learning disability, and when combined with cuts to housing and employment benefits could lead to many people with a learning disability to live in crisis. This would be a significant step back in our fight for a world where people with a learning disability are fully included in our society. ”