THE BLOG

Quick Fixes Won't Solve The Social Care Crisis

15/12/2016 17:04 GMT | Updated 16/12/2016 08:32 GMT
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

In these lean times, 'crisis' is an overused word. But not when it comes to the state of social care in Britain.

Years of cuts have left support at breaking point, not just for the elderly but also for those struggling with learning disabilities, substance misuse and mental health issues.

The very provision of care for the most vulnerable in society is at risk. Unless money is made available urgently, then the estimated funding gap will reach £2.6 billion by 2020 according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Despite calls for the government to act, there was no mention at all in last month's Autumn Statement of much-needed investment. So the announcement by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid that local authorities will be able to raise council tax to pay for social care is a step in the right direction.

It was a measure first proposed in the 2015 Spending Review as the solution for providing the money necessary to stabilise social care by the end of the decade.

However, raising money from council tax is not in itself enough. The concern is that that relaxing restrictions will do little to ease the pressures in poorer parts of the country. The new social care precept will not raise enough money in areas that desperately need it.

And local authorities must also be willing to increase the amount council tax imposed on residents. It is unrealistic therefore for the government to believe this measure will plug the massive hole in social care funding.

And my fear is that this move has come too late. Local authorities have a duty to assess any person, from those suffering from dementia to young adults diagnosed with autism, who has care and support needs.

Access to efficient and quality support should be a right not a privilege in a caring society. It is an essential service we will all turn to at some point, either to meet our own needs or those of a relative. Good social care is essential in improving lives and the communities in which we live.

However, councils have effectively been rationing care because of ever-increasing budget cuts. The government's failure to act has pushed them to the brink. This has left the sustainability of adult social care in Britain 'approaching a tipping point' to quote the Care Quality Commission whose job it is to ensure services are safe and effective. Those providing the care are at the point of quitting or going under because they cannot provide adequate support to people on the meagre budgets they are given.

Those in need are already seeing a reduction in the support available and all this does is put greater pressure on the NHS. Not investing in social care is a short-sighted approach and it means more has to be spent on the health service.

It leaves people stranded in hospital beds especially at Christmas because there is no one available to care for them at home. Or there is no home for them to go back to. Inadequate social care results in the elderly and the vulnerable visiting already over-stretched emergency departments.

The challenges created by social care are immense. And they cannot be solved with token gestures. What's needed is a serious settlement, a blueprint that will ensure we have a properly funded and efficient system that will withstand the rapidly changing demands of an ageing population. A robust system that can meet everyone's needs.

When Theresa May became leader, she pledged to deliver a country that works not just for the privileged few but for everyone. To follow through on that promise, the government must come up with a plan to resolve the crisis in social care.

I realise this is no easy task. But the situation as it is cannot be allowed to continue. Or we will all be counting not just the financial cost but the human cost too.