It's taken less than two weeks for the sticking plaster in the Chancellor's spending review to come off and expose the gaping wound that is care for older and disabled people.
Councils, health and care providers describe the new measures to fund care as too little and far too late. We don't know how many councils will raise council tax bills by up to 2% to fund care but we do know that any extra funds via the Better Care Fund won't arrive until at least 2017.
Neither measure will be near sufficient to tackle the care funding crisis which is happening now. With the introduction of the national living wage in April, many are predicting closures of both care homes and homecare providers as council fees for care remain squeezed and providers won't be able to pay for staff.
So what will it mean for older and disabled people? What will be the consequences of the care funding crisis?
First, some providers will no doubt go to the wall. With staffing their biggest cost, their business will either be unsustainable, or they will have to cut staff levels and reduce the quality of care. Care workers will pay the price for the failure to fund care properly.
Second, the postcode lottery in care will increase. Some councils will be able to raise relatively significant additional revenue from a 2% council tax increase but those with larger numbers of people needing care are unlikely to be able to raise as much and certainly not enough to meet the growing care needs of their local community. Contrary to legislation, where you live will determine the care and support you will be able to access.
Third, there will be a big impact on the already hard-pressed NHS. If councils are unable to fund timely, quality care, many vulnerable older people will end up in hospital and more older people will have to stay there because they can't be discharged home or to residential care. Hospitals, ambulances and A&E services will be under increasing pressure, while older people won't get the care they need where they need it i.e. home not hospital.
Fourth, let's not forget who will be worst hit - older and disabled people and their families. Some will experience worse care. Some will lose services. Some won't get services they need. Some will end up in hospital and may die earlier than they should. Some families will rally round to look after their vulnerable relatives. Some will buy in and pay for care themselves. And some older people will be faced with struggling on their own.
2016 promises to be a grim year for older and disabled people.
In 21st century Britain, is this acceptable? And given the scale of underfunding of care at a time of growing need with our ageing population, why isn't the government taking urgent action? As the care crisis deepens, this surely will be a key issue at the 2020 general election. Before then, no doubt voters will ask why care and support for older and disabled people is not a priority - and why the government has passed the buck for the care crisis very firmly to councils.Suggest a correction