New research has found that investing in social care for people with disabilities brings economic benefits to the taxpayer. This surely undermines any case for more cuts to social care provision.
So, investing in social care services for people with disabilities, especially those at the lower end of need, brings economic benefits. Who would have thought it?
Well, many people within the social care sector have said for years that this is the case, but it may come as a revelation to those in charge of setting budgets in local authorities and government departments.
The headline result of research out this week, undertaken independently by Deloitte – so this has some clout - found that for every £1 spent on services, such as support in the community, housing and communication support, the associated benefits to people, carers, local and central government is worth an average of £1.30.
The services analysed are those used by disabled people who need a lower level of care, which is often just a few hours a week. Given that the benefits to Exchequer, local health and care commissioners and individuals is at least 30%, it undermines any case for further cuts to social care budgets in the forthcoming spending review, in my opinion.
It also backs the case for not setting national eligibility criteria for social care – currently being discussed in Parliament as part of the Care Bill – too high, such as at the existing ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ levels, which is feared.
Previous research has said that setting eligibility criteria at that level could see more than 100,000 people with disabilities left without access to basic care to help them eat, wash or leave their homes. People should not have to reach crisis point before they can access services. Of course, a crisis is also more expensive in terms of the health and social care services that are used as a result of it.
I hope that this report gets through to Chancellor George Osborne, who is currently planning the next spending review, and his advisers. Again, he is seeking widespread cuts to government departmental budgets as he seeks the holy grail of cutting the national deficit.
Any more cuts to social care – which has already been hit hard by previous rounds of budget cuts – would be grossly short-termist. While some people with disabilities may only need a few hours of services per week, it is often a lifeline for them. A lifeline that, if removed, could see them struggle to live independently and in time require a higher (and more expensive) level of social care services.
While more cuts to the overall social care budget would bring instant savings to the Exchequer, in the medium to long-term, this policy would only increase the cost to the state. Investing in lower-level services would prevent that.
It seems so obvious when set out like this. While this policy would require spending more initially, the savings it would recoup over the forthcoming years surely more than justify it. If the Government’s aim is to save money and reduce the deficit, this seems an effective way to do it – even if spending to save may seem counter-intuitive.
More importantly, it would help people with disabilities to continue to live independently.
However, whether those in Government will share this view is another matter. I suspect not, but we will see at the end of the month when the spending review is announced.