The long-awaited renovation of adult social care has been postponed despite mounting pressure. The First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Damian Green, has pronounced the Government will work with care leaders to shape its Green Paper on social care and support for older people, before publishing proposals in Summer 2018. The Green Paper, originally promised to be due by autumn of this year, will set out plans for how the Government proposes to improve care and support for older people and tackle the challenge of an ageing population. These proposals will build on the further £2 billion that the Government has already provided to meet mounting social care requirements, decrease burdens on NHS services and alleviate the social care provider market over the next three years.
Caring for an ageing population
It is predicted that councils are facing a £2.3bn annual funding gap by 2020 and more than 1.2 million pensioners do not receive the care they need, according to the Age UK.
As people are living longer and the population ages, the Government recognises the need to reach a long-term, sustainable solution, Cabinet Office Minister Damian Green, states:
“An ageing population needs a long-term solution for care, but building a sustainable support system will require some big decisions.\n\"In developing the Green Paper, it is right that we take the time needed to debate the many complex issues and listen to the perspectives of experts and care users, to build consensus around reforms which can succeed.”
Damian Green's announcement came just hours after the Care England 2017 Conference & Exhibition in London. A survey conducted by Care England in July 2017 showed that 45% of care providers are planning to take fewer local authority placements in the next three years due to the reduced funds paid by councils.
The Government has “begun a process of engagement in advance of the Green Paper to ensure it reflects a wide range of views and requirements” by working with independent experts, care leaders and care users to create the long-term changes to social care funding that will be proposed in its Green Paper.
Once the Green Paper's proposals are published next summer, they will be subject to a full public consultation.
Social care in funding crisis
Jeremy Hughes, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, has said that as the funding crisis worsens, the charity’s National Dementia Helpline has received distressed calls from people selling their living room furniture and possessions to pay for care.
Mr Hughes states: “It’s vital people with dementia are put at the heart of this consultation – they are the majority of the people needing social care. The election showed that the public are hungry for social care reform, but with the paper not expected until summer, they will have had another year of waiting. If there has been no true progress by then we, and people with dementia, will be asking big questions of the Government.\n“Our helpline has taken too many desperate calls from people selling furniture from their living rooms and clothes off their backs to pay for their care.\n“… People with dementia can’t wait any longer, it’s time to put pounds behind the promises.”
The time to act is now
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“Action also needs to be taken now, including increased funding for social care in the Autumn Budget. The impact of poorly funded and crisis-driven social care is severe, with negative impacts on both individuals and the economy.”
Simon Bottery, Senior Fellow for Social Care at The King’s Fund, said:
"Ultimately, the Green Paper will only be meaningful if it results in a fundamental reform to the social care system. This is a challenge that previous Governments have ducked and it is vital this Government has the courage to deliver real change. The Government must not use the Green Paper as an excuse for failing to address the immediate needs of the publicly-funded social care sector, which faces a £2.5bn funding gap by 2020.
"Unless the Chancellor finds additional funding in next week’s Budget, more people will be denied access to local authority-funded care, increasing pressures on those in need, their families and carers.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, expressed concerns,
“Fundamental changes to the way we fund adult social care are needed if we are to deliver a long-term sustainable system that works for everyone in society and meets their needs with safe and high-quality services.\n“Difficult, brave and possibly even controversial decision-making will be required to secure the long-term future of care and support, not just of older people, but adults of all ages, such as those with learning disabilities, and provide support for carers.”