Election Fall Out: the Social Care Dilemmma

The Conservative win in the recent election took many by surprise but what does this mean for the care sector?

According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/manifesto-guide) these are the key pledges on Health and Social Care in the election:

  • Increase NHS spending in England by at least £8bn above inflation over the next five years
  • Seven-day access to GPs by 2020 & same day appointments for over-75s when needed
  • Integrate health and social care
  • Improve access to mental health treatments

The Guardian declared Social Care had been ‘the ghost at the feast’ of the election campaign with neither party making significant commitments, yet the NHS, guest of honour at this particular feast, cannot be fixed without addressing social care. The recent crises in the NHS with escalating demand have been a direct result of cuts in social care. Dementia costs a staggering £26bn per year, with around 2/3 of the bill shouldered by families via care fees and unpaid carers. Read more

According to Richard Humphries, Assistant Director, Policy, The Kings Fund (CMM May 2015: Politics and Social Care, p20) points out that the coalition made better progress in 5 years than the previous government did in 13:

  • Dilnott: Principle of a cap on care fees: protection from catastrophic costs
  • Care Act: a model of good practice and the most comprehensive and ambitious overhaul of social care legislation since 1948

However, whilst ring fencing health funding, the coalition has undermined their progress by allowing a 40% reduction in real terms to local government with sharpest reductions in community services such as home care. So, on the one hand, the provisions of the Care Act and Dilnott add extra safeguarding and support, and on the other hand, austerity measures mean that eligibility criteria has got tighter and funding more restricted. The Guardian cited these views from experts in the sector:

  • “social workers have had to deal with the fall out of the austerity agenda… it is time to … stop punishing the poor for the economic failures of the rich” British association of social Workers
  • “..there will be a £4.3bn gap and the effect of this on those most in need is simply intolerable” Independent Age
  • “We want to see a system that is protected by adequate funding and a sustainable workforce, is personalised, safe, good quality and aligned with health and our partners” Association of Directors of Adult Services
  • “Closer integration of care and health services .. is still rather more rhetoric than reality… that the context for developing new models and new ways of working is taking place against a long period of austerity will certainly add to the challenge” National Care Forum

Editor in Chief at CMM, Robert Chamberlain(CMM May 2015, p7) sees the public funding shortfall and points out that it is about managing expectations. Health may be free at point of delivery; social care is not, fewer people will get financial assistance and funded care will be for minimal packages.

“Isn’t it about time that the general public were told how it is going to be  in terms of social care funding”.  

We need to accept the current situation and people need to realise that the state will not provide and that people need to plan for potential costs in the same way they would plan for a pension.