Political

High-quality adult social care is vital to give people their freedom

Councillor Howard Sykes is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association. Here he guest blogs about the challenges facing adult social care.

People have a right to live the life they want to lead. High-quality adult social care and support plays an essential role in this. It is also vital to society. It strengthens communities, reduces pressures on the NHS, supports around 1.5 million jobs and contributes as much as £46 billion to the UK economy.

But work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support has been kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades and has brought these services to breaking point.

It has created a deeply uncertain and worrying future outlook for people who use adult social care services now and the growing number of people who will need them in the future.

We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer. The Local Government Association 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. We encourage as many people and organisations to have their say on how we pay for it and what the responsibilities of citizens, families and communities should be.

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: well, independent and at home for as long as possible. This process must start now.

So the Local Government Association, with cross-party support, has today launched a nationwide consultation to kick-start a desperately-needed debate on how to pay for adult social care and rescue the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse. We can’t wait any longer.

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.

Since 2010 councils have had to bridge a £6 billion funding shortfall just to keep the adult social care system going. In addition, the LGA estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8 million 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 per cent 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.

At this point, I want to say a special thank you to Councillor Richard Kemp, our lead on the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board for all his work in helping the LGA get to this point. Last week he was doing the rounds of the TV and radio stations on behalf of the LGA Liberal Democrat Group. Richard has been instrumental in raising the profile of the issue inside and outside the party on behalf of local government.

The LGA eight-week 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 this funding crisis. 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 £4.4 billion in 2024/25, (something we pushed for at the last general election so I am extremely pleased to see this included in the paper)
  • increasing national insurance– a 1p rise could raise £10.4 billion in 2024/2
  • 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 £1 billion would mean a cost of £33.40 for each person aged 40+ in 2024/25.
  • means testing universal benefits, such as winter fuel allowance and free TV licences, could raise £1.9 billion in 2024/25
  • allowing councils to increase council tax – a 1 per cent rise would generate £285 million in 2024/25

The consultation – the biggest launched by the LGA – is 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. The LGA will respond to the findings in the autumn to inform and influence the Government’s green paper and spending plans.

The LGA green paper – alongside funding issues – also seeks to start a much-needed debate about how to shift the overall emphasis of our care and health system so that it focuses far more on preventative, community-based personalised care, which helps maximise people’s health, well-being and independence and alleviates pressure on the NHS Make sure your views are known.

 

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