Two senior members of the opposition have now written to the government calling for cross-party talks in order to try and halt what they claim is a crisis engulfing the social care sector.
The two-pronged attack has today seen John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, write to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, regarding the “deepening crisis in social care”.
“There is an opportunity to avert a crisis this winter”
Mr McDonnell offered the chancellor “cross-party support to solve the social care crisis”, which he claimed would see a million older people “not get the care they need” this Christmas.
He said that, under government spending plans outlined in the autumn statement there was £27bn of “potential additional spending available”.
This, Mr McDonnell claimed would be “more than enough” to cover the estimated £1.9bn funding gap facing the social care system next year.
In his letter to Mr Hammond, he offered his support “in finding an immediate funding solution for the social care crisis this winter”, suggesting it was possible within the government’s own targets.
“The necessary funding could be provided to social care and you would remain well inside your own target for deficit reduction, set at 2% of GDP in 2020-21,” he said. “With political will, the crisis can be resolved.”
The fresh correspondence follows a separate letter sent to the prime minster by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the weekend, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss emergency support for social care.
“The prime minister is clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution”
In his letter to Theresa May, he called for “emergency top-up funding” to protect older and vulnerable people from a social care system that was “breaking down from lack of support”.
“After £4.6bn of cuts to social care budgets since 2010, more than a million elderly people are not getting the care they need,” said Mr Corbyn.
“Social care is in a deepening crisis which threatens the wellbeing, dignity and lives of hundreds of thousands of older people,” he said.
In his letter, Mr Corbyn proposed an urgent meeting “at the highest level” to discuss emergency support for social care to tide services over until April and longer-term solutions to the funding and restructuring of social care provision.
“There is an opportunity to avert a crisis this winter”, he added.
The letters from the Labour leadership follow last week’s confirmation by ministers of changes to council funding arrangements intended to up the amount of money available for social care.
- Government confirms social care funding measures
- Councils likely to use tax freedom to bolster social care
Local authorities were told they could bring forward council tax rises to help cover the costs of social care over the next two years. Money is also being diverted from a national funding pot designed to encourage councils to drive housebuilding in their areas.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said councils would be able to raise the so-called “social care precept” by 3% in each of the next two years, while £240m was to be diverted from the “new homes bonus” to fund social care services.
However, health and social care finance experts reacted with caution, warning that a longer term solution to funding social care was needed to make the sector sustainable and avert future crises. Councils, themselves, reacted more angrily to the announcement from Mr Javid on Thursday.
Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers have been clear both before and since the autumn statement about the need for an urgent injection of genuinely new additional government funding to protect services.
Gary porter new website
“Given this unified call for action, it is hugely disappointing that today’s settlement has failed to find any of this new money to tackle the growing crisis in social care,” he said.
“Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6bn by 2020,” he said. “Council tax rises will not be enough to prevent the need for continued cutbacks to social care services and very many other valued local services.
He added: “The government must recognise why social care matters and treat it as a national priority. There needs to be an urgent and fundamental review.”
In response to the Labour letters, a government spokesman said: “On Thursday, the government announced almost £900m of additional funding over the next two years to tackle these growing pressures.
“The prime minister is clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution, including making sure all local authorities learn from the best performers to raise standards across the whole system,” said the statement from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Jeremy Corbyn letter to Theresa May (16/12/2016)
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to request urgent talks at the highest level to agree urgent action to avert the deepening social care crisis facing many older people this Christmas.
The social care system is breaking down from lack of support. I hope you will be prepared to discuss both emergency support for social care to tide services over until April, as well as longer-term solutions to the funding and restructuring of social care provision.
After £4.6bn of cuts to social care budgets since 2010, more than a million elderly people are not getting the care they need. Social care is in a crisis which threatens the wellbeing, dignity and lives of hundreds of thousands of older people.
The failure of your government, and that of your predecessor, properly to fund our social care system, has meant the burden has increasingly fallen on local authorities, which have themselves suffered heavy and continuous cuts.
Relying on the council tax to plug the shortfall will lead to a postcode lottery and shift the cost on to hard-pressed council taxpayers. The government must take responsibility.
In the sixth richest country in the world, it is a national disgrace that elderly and disabled people are being denied the dignity and care they so desperately need.
This is a question of priorities. Your government has chosen to cut corporation tax while over a million of Britain’s disabled and older people are being denied the care they deserve.
We can avert the crisis this winter while developing a sustainable solution that treats all of our disabled and older people with the dignity that they have earned.
There is an opportunity to avert a crisis this winter. Will your government agree to take it?