POLITICS

Social Care Funding Boost Speculation Grows As Downing Street Cancels Key Meeting With MPs Until After The Budget

The meeting was due to take place today

21/02/2017 18:03 GMT | Updated 07/03/2017 11:51 GMT
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MPs are quietly confident the social care crisis will be tackled in the upcoming Budget 2017 as a key meeting with the Prime Minister’s new health adviser was today moved until after the financial statement.

Theresa May’s new health adviser James Kent was set to meet with members of a cross-party group of MPs this afternoon to discuss what steps the Government can take to help social care provision.

The meeting was cancelled at the eleventh hour, and MPs were told it would now take place after the Budget - leading to speculation new money would be announced to help tackle the crisis.

In a meeting yesterday, Tory backbenchers repeatedly questioned Chancellor Philip Hammond on what assistance there would be in the Budget for councils struggling to finance social care.

Speaking to the Huff Post UK today, one member of the cross-party group believes the Government is going to offer some kind of help on March 8.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll get something in the Budget,” the MP said.

Another MP agreed with the claim, but did not expect there to be “too much”.

Norman Lamb, chairman of the cross-party group, played down any link between the meeting being rearranged and the upcoming Budget.

“There’s nothing that revelatory there,” he said.

Members of the group, launched in January, met with Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt three weeks ago to discuss finding a long-term solution to the health and social care crisis.

Lamb, a former Lib Dem Health Minister, said the meeting was “very constructive”, and told the IBTimes: “They took us seriously, they took the case we made seriously and we asked if [May] was willing to initiate a dialogue to explore this idea further, rather than slamming the door on us, and she did that.”

The crisis in social care – fuelled by cuts to funds to local authorities – is one of the major factors in the growing pressure on the NHS.

Figures released by the NHS last month showed that of 195,286 days lost because of delayed transfers of care in December 2016, 85,587 were due to social care failures.

In December, Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid announced that council tax bills will be allowed to rise by up to 6% over two years in a bid to pump emergency cash into social care for the elderly.

The town hall ‘precept’ that tops up household bills will be allowed to rise by 3% from this year and 3% the year after.

But there will be no new increase in spending overall, as the money will be front-loaded from existing plans.