A report published by the Commons Health Select Committee has called for more ‘joined-up’ health, care and housing. While this is undoubtedly needed, so is more funding for social care.
Although the focus of the Health Select Committee report was on the need for health and care services to become more joined up, it also said that the Government needs to recognise that there is a widening funding gap in social care services. The amount of money currently in the system just isn’t enough to deal with the increasing number of people who need care and whose individual needs are rising.
The report added that the government’s commitment of an extra £2 billion a year for social care by 2014/15 was not enough to maintain current services.
The Care & Support Alliance, a consortium of more than 60 organisations, including learning disability charities Mencap and the National Autistic Society, that are campaigning for reform of the health and social care system, also called for more money to be pumped into social care, because current funding levels are insufficient to maintain adequate levels of service.
Indeed, I’ve heard many accounts of people with learning disabilities suffering cuts to their services in the past year or so – especially those at the milder end of the spectrum – which is having a detrimental effect on the quality of their lives. With more local authority cuts coming, there will only be more stories like this.
The Health Select Committee also reaffirmed its support for the recommendations from the Dilnot report on social care funding, which advocated a cap on care costs, among other things.
All of this puts more pressure on the Government and its forthcoming adult social care White Paper. This White Paper is arguably the most important for social care in a generation and needs to be got right.
The social care system has been creaking for years and reform cannot be put off. But the Government has to ensure that the dominant influence on the reforms is not how much they will cost to implement, or cutting budgets to reduce the country’s deficit. They should be based on individual service users and the supports they need to be able to live the lives that they choose, with dignity and independence.
Whether this happens is quite another matter. With economic pressures seemingly the key influence on every major government decision – see also the Welfare Reform Bill and the plan to cut the disability living allowance bill by a fifth – you have to worry. Indeed, the government has always appeared lukewarm about the Dilnot report, perhaps partly because it concluded that its plans would cost north of £1 billion to implement.
So for more money to be put into social care, on top of what has already been committed, might be a bridge too far for this Government. For the sake of service users everywhere, I hope I’m wrong.