Saturday, February 27News For London

Ministers’ consideration to raise council tax for social care funding faces criticism

The government is considering an increase in council tax to pay for social care in the UK. However, organisations and Britons don’t seem to agree whether it will provide a solution for the funding gap in social care.

Courtesy of CQC
Courtesy of CQC

The decision comes after NHS went under pressure for inefficient patient care. Many elderly and disabled patients remain in the hospital due to lack of social care support. Which leads to ambulances queueing up and patients waiting long hours to be admitted.

Prime Minister’s spokeswoman refused to comment on the tax rises, but told journalists at a Number 10 briefing today that money isn’t the only problem. “There are other issues to be addressed alongside that,” she said. “We do think there’s a significant variety in how councils manage social care services. We think it’s to do with management.”

Figures published in the 2016 state of the nation report of the Local Government Association (LGA) in November showed that the “government faces an overall funding gap of £5.8 billion by 2019/20.”

Even though, former chancellor George Osborne has previously introduced a 2 per cent precept to pay for care of the elderly and disabled along with additional funding from the Better Care Fund, Richard Humphires, assistant director of policy at The King’s Fund, wrote in a blog how it didn’t solve the problem.

“Our analysis of how the precept has been used by councils this year (2016/17) shows that it is deeply flawed as a way of securing sustainable funding for adult social care,” he wrote. “It was used by 95 per cent of councils, but raised just £382 million – less than 3 per cent of what councils plan to spend on adult social care. It will not even cover the £612 million estimated cost of the National Living Wage this year, let alone demographic and other cost pressures.”

In the LGA report, Mr Humphires said that “it is not just about money but how needs are assessed and services are organised to meet the escalating levels of acuity and complexity of needs, including dementia, frailty and multiple chronic illness in old age.”

Haydn Wheeler, 68, is from Boscombe borough of the South England city of Bournemouth. It’s one of the deprived areas of the city. He said that he “will be facing needs of social care,” and the increase of council tax will not be a solution.  The rise of “income tax and inheritance tax are a fairer option,” he said.

The “postcode lottery,” that is created by the variety of money raised between wealthy and poorer areas, is another problem, according the LGA. People living in wealthy areas will have a higher amount raised; however, it is the poorer areas that are in need of increased and more efficient social care.

The funding problems of social care comes at a time when there’s an aging population where rising life expectancy leads to increased demand for healthcare. In addition, younger patients with life-long disabilities are also in need of long-term care.

Stephen Dorrell, NHS confederation chair, wrote in the LGA 2016 report that “it is simply perverse that over a decade when NHS spending has risen by a quarter, social care spending has been flat. At a time when demand from elderly people accounts for a rising share of NHS activity it would seem to be little more than common sense that provision for social care should rise at least as fast as provision for the NHS.”

In the same report, Bridget Warr, chief executive for UK Homecare Association, said that the funding gap for social care has a big impact directly on the ability for their “sector to support people’s independence and wellbeing.” But she added there is much more to it.

She said: “A lack of homecare accounts for people being kept in hospital for 314,000 days each year due to delayed discharge (2015/16). As providers either leave the publicly-funded market, or worse, close their doors completely, we lose a significant contribution to our national economy. After all, receiving support to stay at home is what the overwhelming majority of people want.”

She said she doesn’t believe that the 2 per cent preceptors and additional funding from Better Care Fund introduced last year “are in any way sufficient.”