The Chancellor pledged £2bn in the Budget—but there will still be a funding gap of almost £3bn in 2019/20. So what's the long-term solution?by Anita Charlesworth , Ruth Thorlby / March 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Those who called for more social care funding in last week’s Budget may well be feeling damned with faint hope. There was an injection of cash, but well short of the estimates of what is needed for those who rely on publicly funded social care and the poorly paid workforce who care for them.
The government might also be feeling a bit frustrated—the succession of announcements on social care from the 2015 Spending Review onwards amount to a pretty generous funding increase compared to other public services. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced £2bn extra over the next three years, with £1bn available for 2017-18. Funding for social care is now projected to increase by around 2 per cent a year in real terms between 2015/16 and 2019/20—twice the rate of growth in NHS funding.
The problem is that the gap left by six years of cuts to local government funding yawns very wide: an estimated 400,000 fewer people now get publicly funded social care than in 2009-10. On top of that, there are people who still receive some social care, but not enough to meet all of their needs. For these people, a more generous service might include longer or more frequent visits.
Meanwhile, pressures on the system are rising very fast. Health Foundation analysis, drawing on LSE research, suggests funding pressures of over 5 per cent a year in real terms between now and 2020. Between 2015 and 2020 the population aged 65 and over in England will increase by almost a million. This is on top of the extra million pensioners in the first five years of this decade. But it’s not just older people who need social care. Social care is vital for people aged between 18 and 64 with learning difficulties and physical health problems. Medical advances mean more babies born prematurely are surviving, but often with life-long health problems. For young disabled adults, expectations for an independent, quality life are rightly increasing. The average cost for younger adults is high and numbers are growing.
Some of the Chancellor’s £2bn will legitimately be soaked up by providers of social care. For many years, as local authorities have been forced to cut fees, providers have been attempting to maintain services on dwindling budgets. The UK Home Care Association, which…