By Debbie le Quesne

‘Guilty secret’ to be exposed by care reforms

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Social care has always been the poor relation in its inextricable partnership with the NHS. It’s been a fact of life for carers and care providers for as long as I can remember.

But I read with growing interest that reforms in the Care Bill could finally truly expose the extent of the fiscal restraint which the care industry endures.

Underfunding, according to the Guardian newspaper, is about to go public in big way.

I quote: “The reforms, including a cap on what people will have to pay for care and a deferred payment scheme so that people will not have to sell their home, will cost local and central government a great deal of money while failing to meet the expectations generated by this complicated and widely misunderstood legislation.”

The statement is backed by a County Councils Network survey that reveals “overwhelming concern that the changes are going to increase pressures on social care budgets.”

This week the Local Government Association and social care leaders warned there is a £135m shortfall in the new money for councils to implement the Bill.

The wrangling over figures has become very political as you’d expect with the Guardian reporting that the Department of Health recently accused the LGA of publishing misleading figures. Oh dear.

The National Audit Office findings say councils spending on adult social care in 2012-13 was £19bn – an eight per cent real terms cut in two years. And it adds that around 85 per cent of adults over 65 live in local authorities where the eligibility threshold only meets substantial or critical needs. Informal carers and the NHS pick up much of the rest.

Emotive as it may be, the Guardian goes on to add that social care cuts are local government’s guilty secret. While local media reports millions being taken out of budgets and councillors highlight service closures when railing against plummeting government funding, the complexity of the care system means few people have a clear picture of what is being lost and what remains.

This observation is so true. Within the sector and with the help of analysts and industry thinkers, it’s almost impossible to work out just how great the losses are. The public and amazingly, our MPs, remain silent – something that has always puzzled me.

The true chaos of the cuts will be fully revealed as under-funded machinery – the Las and private service providers – will be made known when the reforms of the Care Bill are rolled out.

I quote the article again: “The NAO spells out that central and local government simply do not know whether the care and health systems can continue to absorb the growing pressures, and if so for how long. The unknowns include how many care providers will be driven out of business, and how quickly.”

Indeed, closures of businesses are already happening, and suspect that these are but the birth pains of something much more devastating.

Sadly those at the sharp end of the cuts to social care do not have a voice and equally distressing is the fact that they are generally the only ones who truly understand the extent of them.


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