THE BLOG

Chancellor Must Use the CSR to Avert a Crisis in the Care System

10/11/2015 11:39 GMT | Updated 09/11/2016 10:12 GMT

On Monday the Chancellor announced that the Department for Communities and Local Government has agreed to cut 30% out of its budget by 2020. This means that the future of the social care system has just moved from "critical" to full blown "crisis".

The crisis will only be averted if the Chancellor moves quickly and ends the long-term financial uncertainty in the social care system in his Comprehensive Spending Review on November 25th.

In real terms, the consequence of this latest CLG announcement is that the department responsible for providing monies to councils to pay for social care will cut its annual spend by 8% in each year of this Parliament.

The government says that Greg Clarke - the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government - will be able to achieve this 30% reduction in his department's budget through a combination of further efficiency savings in day-to-day spending and closing low-value programmes.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA) is clear that social care must not fall into either of these categories. Care for the nation's disabled and elderly population must not be considered by the government to be an optional low-value programme or a day-to-day spend comparable to other local government functions such as collecting bins and recycling waste.

It is also worth placing today's announcement into a broader context. The social care system is in crisis; devoid of money, government strategy and increasingly transferring a huge burden onto A&E departments across the country.

Since George Osborne became Chancellor of the Exchequer he has made cuts to the social care system totaling £4.6 billion. It has had a devastating effect on the ability of carers and care providers to continue providing the basic standard of care for our nation's disabled and older people.

There are now almost half a million fewer people receiving social care services since 2009/2010 despite the fact the number of people who now need care services has dramatically increased.

Couple this with the fact the CQC recently reported that almost 50 per cent of care providers that they inspected in 2014/2015 were rated as inadequate. This should sound alarm bells throughout Whitehall in the same way it sounds alarm bells in the living rooms and kitchens of the millions of families who have loved ones entirely dependent on a care system no longer fit for purpose.

It cannot change for the better unless the gaps in the social care funding streams are plugged. That requires clear objectives from the government and a strategy to fulfil it.

Yet George Osborne has made no secret of his desire to reach a budget surplus in the life of this parliament. In fact he has now gone further and admitted that he wants to achieve a surplus "by a reasonably comfortable margin".

However, social care is not a luxury item or a service which should be denied to those in desperate need, on the grounds of budgetary constraints. It is an essential service that our country will be required to offer an ever increasing number of people as our nation's population lives longer.

Meeting the challenges of the ageing population is the defining task facing this generation of Parliamentarians. It is one they must meet. It will require a bolder vision than a budget surplus.

The government's ability to credibly claim to be compassionate Conservatives would be undermined if the Chancellor fails to end the long-term economic uncertainty which he is presiding over in the social care system. If he sits down in the House of Commons on November 25th having not addressed the care crisis then he will be betraying the disabled adults, older adults and their carers of the answers they need to the question they have over the future of the care system upon which they desperately depend.

The CSA believes that the Comprehensive Spending Review provides a window of opportunity for the Chancellor to take decisive and targeted action to outline how he plans to save the social care system from total collapse.

In July he announced that he will be deferring the introduction of the care cap until 2020. That means there is an unallocated £6 billion that he could immediately award to the social care system to fill the void created in the last parliament and address any potential shortcomings for care as a result of today's 30% cut.

If the Chancellor was to do this in just 15 days' time, he would outline a strong economic plan for a future security for care that we could all support.

Vicky McDermott

Chair of the Care & Support Alliance