Council cuts and an increase in demand for elderly care services will leave the adult social care sector with a £1.9 billion funding gap as of next year.
This is according to three leading health charities – the Nuffield Trust, The King’s Fund and the Health Foundation – which have now called on the government to address this funding gap in its next Autumn Statement.
The organisations are now pushing for increases in social care funding, which were to have been brought in later this parliament via the Better Care Fund, to be introduced in 2017. They say that if this doesn’t happen, thousands more disabled and older people will not have access to the care they require, which in turn will have serious consequences for the NHS.
“After years of austerity, by the middle of this parliament we will start to see the amount of NHS money per person actually fall in real terms. In this context, providing high quality healthcare that meets the needs of a growing and ageing population will put the NHS under enormous pressure,” director of research and chief economist at the Nuffield Trust John Appleby said.
The call has been backed by councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, who said that unless social care is funded appropriately, both the safety and quality of care is at risk.
She too went on to urge the government to use its forthcoming Autumn Statement to provide local authorities with the funding they need to make sure the care system is fair and keeps people out of hospital, able to live independent and dignified lives.
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The UK’s social care services could see a welcome financial boost from April next year, with sources close to government saying that chancellor Philip Hammond is now looking into whether between £700 million and £1.5 billion extra could be funnelled into the sector to help reduce the numbers of older people going into hospital.
What’s more, Mr Hammond is also considering allowing councils increase the amount they can add to council tax bills so as to help fund social care. At the moment, it is capped at two per cent, the Guardian reports. So come the release of the Autumn Statement on November 23rd, the NHS could well be granted access to fresh funding to build new health centres and hospitals.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt, NHS bosses and local council leaders are all now putting pressure on the chancellor to make some provisions for the NHS amid concerns that it will not be able to cope with the demand this winter.
“It is my view that, if further funding can be located, it should go into social care, with the expectation that this will indirectly relieve some of the difficulties being encountered by the NHS. I believe many of my colleagues are reaching the same conclusion,” GP and Tory MP James Davies told the Observer.
Certainly, it seems as though something must be done – and soon. A new report from UNISON has found that cuts to social care budgets are having a serious impact on some of the most vulnerable people in society. Of those asked, 63 per cent said they have less time to spend with those they care for because of staff shortages, while 36 per cent said that cutting corners and rationing of supplies has climbed because of budget cuts.
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