Start of debate on how to pay for adult social care welcomed

Lib Dem John Ungar welcomed the LGA's decision to start a debate on how adult social care is funded
Lib Dem John Ungar welcomed the LGA's decision to start a debate on how adult social care is funded

The start of a nationwide debate on how to pay for adult social care and ‘rescue the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse’ has been welcomed by an East Sussex councillor.

Councils up and down the country are under severe pressure due to increased demand for services and reduced funding from central Government.

This is especially true in East Sussex which has a much higher than average elderly population.

Earlier this summer ministers announced the publication of a green paper on social care had been pushed back to the autumn.

In response the Local Government Association has launched its own consultation on possible options to improve the system and generate extra funds.

Ideas include increasing income tax for taxpayers of all ages, increasing national insurance, a social care premium for over 40s and working pensioners, means tested universal benefits such as winter fuel allowance and free TV licences or allowing councils to increase council tax.

According to the LGA since 2010 councils in England have had to bridge a £6bn funding shortfall to keep the adult social care system going and face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing standards of care.

John Ungar, Lib Dem spokesman on social care at East Sussex County Council, welcomed the publication of a green paper by the LGA.

He said: “It is an absolute disgrace that the Government, having promised us a green paper on this issue in the summer of 2017 has now failed to meet their own revised target of issuing it this summer and instead will release it at some time in the autumn.

“This is an absolutely vital issue. Because we are failing to invest in programmes to keep those in or approaching their third age healthy we are condemning them to a life of ill-health which will continue to put huge strains on the NHS.

“We then compound that by having insufficient investment in facilities and services which means that up to 10 per cent of hospital beds are occupied on any one day by people who have no clinical or medical need to be there.

“Here in East Sussex we have many delayed discharges every year; and urgently need to provide more care in their homes for people.

“Putting money into the NHS without aligning the spend to adult social care just means that the NHS will lurch from financial crisis to financial crisis. Unless we help more people to stay out of hospital and get them out of hospital quicker the NHS is in serious trouble.”

Back in June the Tory-led county council approved a programme of cuts totalling £9.6m in its adult social care budget.

The full range of measures included cuts to the East Sussex Stroke Recovery and HIV Support services as well as the closures of council-run care home Firwood House in Eastbourne and a council-run day service for elderly and disabled residents at Warwick House in Seaford.

Day centres in Bexhill and Hastings are also set to close with services commissioned at alternative locations in the area.

Pressure on social care budgets is also forcing the county council to cut back on non-statutory services.

County councillors from all parties have lobbied central Government to change how social care is funded.

Alongside funding issues the LGA green paper also seeks to start a debate about how to shift the overall emphasis of the care and health system so that it focuses far more on preventative, community-based personalised care, helping to maximise people’s health, wellbeing and independence and alleviate pressure on the NHS.

Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer. Our 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.”

To view the LGA’s proposals and to comment visit the LGA’s website.

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