Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed a funding injection for adult social care at the Conservative Party conference today.
Mr Hancock, who made a speech in Birmingham this afternoon, pledged £240m to bolster services which are still struggling following a rise in emergency admissions to hospital during the summer heatwave.
“I can announce that today I am making an extra £240m available to pay for social care packages”
He said the money was intended to prevent unnecessary emergency admissions and enable patients to leave hospitals when medically fit, while councils will also be able to invest in adaptations to people’s homes.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that NHS acute trusts will receive £145m to prepare for increased winter pressures.
Mr Hancock said: “I have already provided funding for hospitals to make upgrades to their buildings to deal with pressures this winter. And I can announce that today I am making an extra £240m available to pay for social care packages.”
Half of the £2bn extra funding for social care announced last year was allocated in 2017-18, with a requirement that it was spent on relieving pressure on hospitals.
The government injected a further £150m for 2017-18 in February. Councils were also given the flexibility to raise council tax through a social care precept by 6% in the three years up to 2019-20.
“Adult social care services still face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025”
The government has promised to publish a green paper on the long-term sustainability of the adult social care system this autumn.
The Local Government Association, which recently published its own proposals for reform, has warned that social care is at breaking point, welcomed the cash injection but warned short-term funding is not the solution.
Ian Hudspeth, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “We are pleased that the government has acted by providing an injection of desperately-needed funding to help tackle winter pressures.
“Councils successfully used extra social care funding from the government last year to reduce delayed transfer of care days attributable to social care by 37% since July and alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS,” he said.
“This has proved that there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable social care system,” he said. “However, short-term bailouts are not the answer. Councils and providers cannot simply turn services on and off as funding ebbs and flows.
“This extra money will definitely help and we therefore welcome it”
Mr Hudspeth added: “Putting in place the right services and workforce requires forward planning and longer term contracts. Adult social care services still face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care.
“We must find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support,” he said. “The government must use its own upcoming adult social care green paper to address the fundamental problems facing adult social care and ensure full and sustainable funding.”
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The funding announced today by the health and social care secretary for local authorities to spend on ensuring patients can be discharged promptly into appropriate care this winter will be strongly welcomed by trusts.
“This is exactly what NHS Providers called for in September and it’s good to be heard,” he said. “Delays in transferring patients to care outside of hospital have been a focal point of winter pressure on the health system. These waits are not good for patients, families or NHS staff working under pressure.
“Trusts and local authorities have worked incredibly hard over the year to reduce these delays. But after a difficult summer of record-breaking demand, trusts are not in the position they would want to be in heading into winter,” he said. “This extra money will definitely help and we therefore welcome it.”
“We must also look to what is happening in the community if we are to achieve more”
He added: “For the long-term the government’s forthcoming green paper must propose bold action to put social care on the sustainable footing it so desperately needs.”
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, also described the funding as “welcome”, and said recognised that adult social care had a “significant role to play in supporting the NHS during the Winter – most notably hospitals”.
“As a sector, adult care has made great progress in reducing unnecessary delays, discharging people safely from hospital and it’s positive that this is acknowledged by the government,” he said.
“However, we must also look to what is happening in the community if we are to achieve more,” he said. “This will help relieve pressure on accident and emergency departments, as we reduce the numbers of people going to hospital because of gaps in community support.
But he added: “This funding can only be a temporary and partial ‘fix’ – we need to go much further, much faster, if we are to truly support people in the community. This can only be achieved with greater co-ordination between health, social care and housing services and through a long-term settlement.
“Social care urgently requires a lasting, year round, financial settlement that works for all”
Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, the infrastructure organisation that support voluntary disability and care providers, said: “Money to support the system this Winter is welcome.
“But social care urgently requires a lasting, year round, financial settlement that works for all,” he said. “The forthcoming autumn budget offers government the opportunity to identify a long term and sustainable funding solution for adult social care that covers both working age disabled adults and older people.”