LGA gets ahead of government over social care green paper

Major eight week consultation announced on options to ‘influence’ the government’s delayed social care green paper.

The Local Government Association today (July 31) launches a nationwide consultation to kick-start “desperately-needed” debate on how to pay for adult social care and rescue services caring for older and disabled people from collapse.

Years of significant underfunding of councils, coupled with rising demand and costs for care and support, have combined to push adult social care services to breaking point.

The consultation therefore sets out options for how the system could be improved and the radical measures that need to be considered given the scale of the funding crisis.

Alongside funding issues, the LGA green paper also seeks to start debate about how to shift the overall emphasis of the care and health system so that it focuses far more on preventative, community-based personalised care – easing pressure on the NHS.

Possible solutions to paying for adult social care in the long-term outlined in the consultation include:

  • Increasing income tax for taxpayers of all ages – a 1p rise on the basic rate could raise £4.4bn in 2024/25
  • Increasing national insurance – a 1p rise could raise £10.4bn in 2024/25
  • A Social Care Premium – charging the over-40s and working pensioners an earmarked contribution (such as an addition to National Insurance or another mechanism).

If it was assumed everyone over 40 was able to pay the same amount (not the case under National Insurance), raising £1bnn would mean a cost of £33.40 for each person aged 40+ in 2024/25.

  • Means testing universal benefits – pitched as potentially raising £1.9bn in 2024/25
  • Allowing councils to increase council tax – a 1% rise would generate £285m in 2024/25

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support had been “kicked into the long grass” by successive governments for the past two decades – bringing services to breaking point.

“We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer, our green paper is the start of a nationwide public debate about the future of care for all adults, and how best to support their wellbeing, and we encourage as many people and organisations to have their say on how we pay for it and the responsibilities of citizens, families and communities, said Cllr Seccombe.

“Adult social care and support matters, we must fund it for the long-term so that people of all ages can be supported to live the life they want to live.

“Building a better society means ensuring that everyone receives the care they need to lead a good life –  this process must start now,” she said.

Since 2010 councils have had to bridge a £6bn funding shortfall just to keep the adult social care system going.

In addition, the LGA estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8m new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day.

Decades of failures to find a sustainable solution to how to pay for adult social care for the long-term, and the Government’s recent decision to delay its long-awaited green paper on the issue until the autumn, has prompted council leaders to take action.

Short-term cash injections have not prevented care providers reluctantly closing their operations or returning contracts to councils and less choice and availability to a rising number of people with care needs.

This is increasing the strain on an already-overstretched workforce and unpaid carers, and leading to more people not having their care needs met.

Increased spend on adult social care – which now accounts for nearly 40% of total council budgets – is threatening the future of other vital council services, such as parks, leisure centres and libraries, which help to keep people well and from needing care and support and hospital treatment.

Matthew Winn, chair of the Community Network, which is operated jointly by NHS Providers and the NHS Confederation, said the LGA was “absolutely right” to focus on the myriad of services in the community which are needed to help manage demand on hospitals.

“Urgent, radical action is needed to ensure primary care, social care and community services are adequately funded and integrated so that all parts of the system are working together seamlessly.

“In time this will keep people healthy in or near their homes, putting patients at the centre of their care – and will stop the never-ending cycle which sees hospitals stuffed full of more and more people who have nowhere else to turn.”

The consultation is the biggest launched by the LGA in seeking the views of people and organisations from across society on how best to pay for care and support for adults of all ages and their unpaid carers, and aims to make the public a central part of the debate.

With the consultation running for eight weeks from today, the LGA will respond to the findings in a further publication in the autumn, which will be used to influence the Government’s own expected green paper, forthcoming Autumn Budget for 2019/20 and Spending Review.

Recent surveys by the LGA show that 96% of councils and lead members believe there is a major funding problem with adult social care; 89% said taxation must be part of the long-term solution to funding, and that 87% of the public support more funding to plug the significant funding gap in the sector.

 

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