Warnings of a crisis in social care have become more frequent and more urgent in recent months. As we head towards winter, medical professionals, care workers, MPs, council leaders and charities alike have been telling us that we are on course for a disaster of untold proportions.
The government recently promised an additional £3.5 billion to add to the social care budget by 2020 and claim that they are “committed to ensuring older people throughout the country get affordable and dignified care.” However, research carried about by disability charity Leonard Cheshire shows that in England there has been an overall reduction of £4.6 billion in the social care budget since 2010. It also found that over half (56%) of disabled adults who need care do not currently receive any. Not only this, but the annual LGO social care review reveals that complaints about homecare are up by 25%, suggesting funding pressures are having an impact on standards. If the government is as committed to improving care as it claims, it needs to puts its money where its mouth is, and must do so much sooner than 2020.
The new Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, makes his first Autumn Statement next week, and will outline his spending plans for the coming year. There has been plenty of talk of solving the social care crisis, but real action is now required. As suggested by the sector, the Chancellor should act decisively and commit to plugging the estimated £1.9 billion annual funding gap.
There is a legitimate argument that social care spending saves the NHS money elsewhere. George McNamara, of the Alzheimer’s Society, clearly demonstrated this at the recent ADASS 2016 conference, showing that for every person who is able to live at home rather than in residential care there is an annual saving of £11,296 per person. Quality social care also plays a role in preventing the hospitalisation of the elderly and disabled and enables those who are in hospital to be released sooner. Again, the potential for savings is clear; if 5% of admissions were delayed for one year, the net saving would be £55 million per annum.
Another contributing factor is that the public are unaware of the variety of care options available to them, or how to access them. Consequently, many feel like they have no choice in the care they receive. Greater effort therefore needs to be made to simplify the system by clearly outlining the options available and how to access public and private care, as well as to promote homecare as an alternative. Increased funding coupled with clearer guidance on care options would reduce bed blocking, saving the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds every year. We hope Mr Hammond comes to the same conclusion.