Stronger public finances come as Rishi Sunak prepares to unveil budget next month
Government spending in the north of England has fallen by £6.3bn while according to an analysis of official figures.
Andy Burnham, Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, called on ministers to place northern England at “the front of the queue for public investment” after the north-south divide was highlighted in a report on Wednesday.
The study, by the thinktank IPPR North, found that the north of England continued to see bigger cuts in public spending than any other region.
Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty has vividly described “pulverism” – the idea that councils should use financial crises not merely to make savings but to smash up and reshape the public sector – and claims it has gone nationwide.
No it hasn’t, at least not in my experience of working in all kinds of councils around the country over the past decade.
Most councils, far from being ideological about smashing up the public sector, have been trying their best to mitigate the impact of the ideology and policies of austerity that successive governments have put in place since the coalition introduced the first round of cuts in 2010.
In 24 hours’ time, Edith will no longer be able to get out of bed. The 30-year-old has multiple sclerosis, and relies on council-funded care assistants to help her live in her two-bed adapted flat in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.
For 18 months, she has managed with only a couple of visits a day: one at 7am, to enable her to get up for work as a chartered accountant, and another at 8.30pm to help her get out of her wheelchair and back into bed. After years of saving hard for her first home and moving out of her parents’, it was meant to be the start of Edith’s life. But in February her care agency struck a blow: owing to staff shortages in her area, they would be ceasing their contract, and giving social services 90 days’ notice. Three months later, with barely a day until her carers leave, the council hasn’t found her a replacement.
Edith is terrified. “Carers helping me out of bed every morning are the fundamental life support which everything else in my life depends on,” she says. “And now it feels like the rug is being pulled out from beneath me.”
With both parts of the system under pressure, blaming each other will do nothing to help those who rely on services
Ministers claim the worst cuts are being offset. In fact, the true beneficiaries are Conservative shires
MPs claim other parts of the Department of Health’s budget, such as public health, are being diverted to fund NHS England
A huge rise in child poverty, a devastating UN critique of British austerity … these are among the news events our government is hoping we miss
Council care bosses urge ‘sustained and substantial’ extra funds to help older and disabled people in England
More than £1bn will be cut from social care services for older and disabled people in England over the next year, leaving tens of thousands facing reduced help with basic tasks such as washing, dressing and eating, council care bosses have said.
Despite rising demand driven by an ageing population, fewer people will qualify for state-funded care while those who continue to receive a service may have to accept lower levels of support and a worse quality of life, they said in a report.
The quality and reliability of local services would also suffer as a consequence of turmoil in the private care sector caused partly by an ongoing council freeze on fees, undermining attempts to maintain a “caring, compassionate and trained workforce”.
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services(Adass), which produced the report, called on ministers to reverse five years of cuts and invest “sustained and substantial” extra funds to care for and protect older people.
“Short-changing social care is short-sighted and short-term. It must also be short-lived if we are going to avoid further damage to the lives of older and vulnerable people who often will have no one else but social care to turn to. It is vitally important these care and support services are protected,” he said.
He also warned that the cuts to social care would increase pressure on the NHS, a view shared by health service leaders, who earlier this week said ministers had to guarantee spending on social care as well as hospitals if the NHS was to survive five more years of austerity.
A government spokesman downplayed the report, which he said ignored ministerial commitments to invest extra resources into social care through theBetter Care fund, which focuses on innovative ways of helping people live independently. “Increasing budgets isn’t the only solution. By working innovatively and joining up health and social care we can improve care – and also save money.”
But James accused the government of spin and double-counting, and called for a “transparent debate” on the pressures facing adult social care departments.
More than half of directors surveyed by Adass were worried that some local care provider markets, which have been racked by scandals over low pay, and high staff turnover, could collapse under the financial strain of the cuts.
To date councils have cut £4.6bn from adult social care budgets since 2009-10, equivalent to almost a third of net real terms spend, says Adass. They are now running out of “efficiencies” and are set to make £500m of service reductions over the next 12 months at a time when they face £600m in extra service demand and price inflation – equivalent to an overall cut in funding of £1.1bn.
Around 400,000 fewer people received social care support over the past five years, a trend that social care directors say they expect to continue. Councils are forecasting a £4.3bn black hole in social care funding in England by 2020.
Responding to the Adass report, Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, said: “The only choices that the councils at the frontline have to offer are less care or care for fewer people. Sometimes both.
“Let’s not hide from the reality of what this means. This means disabled ex-soldiers coping all day with one ‘flying’ homecare visit and a thermos. This means people who need help to go to the bathroom, falling and going to hospital sometimes several times a week. And now it might get worse.”
Richard Humphries, director of policy at the King’s Fund thinktank, said: “There is no hiding the fact that, despite the best efforts of local authorities, a sixth consecutive year of budget cuts will mean further reductions in services and fewer people receiving support.
“It defies demography that councils will spend £1bn less this year on essential services that more of us will need.
“Social care is now at a crossroads. It is at risk of becoming a residual service, available only to those with the lowest incomes and highest needs, leaving thousands of people and their families struggling to meet the costs of care.”
Izzie Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “The necessity for further budget savings worth £1.1bn combined with other pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs mean that despite councils’ best efforts they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide. This cannot continue.”
The Adass survey was completed during March and April 2015. Of 151 councils surveyed, 147 responded. …………….’
‘………The chancellor should invest in the care and support that helps keep people out of hospital
No one wants to see their elderly mum or dad or sick neighbour suffer but this is exactly what is happening in health and social care. While social care remains chronically underfunded, the support elderly and disabled people rely upon will continue to suffer and deteriorate. Another care crisis, like the one we saw this winter, will become an unavoidable reality all year around, the vulnerable will not get the care they deserve and the NHS will remain under pressure.
This is why it is vital that the chancellor uses next month’s budget to protect social care funding in the same way it is doing with spending on the NHS. We know there is less money in the system for everyone, but council and health leaders all recognise that it’s a false economy to only protect one part of the system – investing money and protecting funding for the NHS while forcing councils to cut already stretched social care budgets.
Social care services help elderly and disabled people remain independent and stay in their own homes and out of hospital. Simple everyday support such as washing, dressing and meals on wheels aren’t luxuries that we can choose whether or not to fund – they are essential services that must be properly funded if we are to continue helping people to live independently.
It simply doesn’t make sense to invest money in responding to increased hospital demand when investment in care and support would help keep people out of hospital in the first place, and prevent them from returning if they require acute care.
While councils have been striving to protect spending on adult social care as much as possible, growing demand, escalating costs and a 40% cut to local government budgets across this parliament means they are being forced to make impossible decisions about which services they can afford to provide.
The repercussions of this are being felt not just by those reliant on the care system, but by everyone who uses services provided by a council. This April, local authorities will have to divert £1.1bn from services like fixing potholes, running libraries and keeping our streets clean to pay for adult social care. These are services that contribute to everyone’s wellbeing and everyone in the community values, not just elderly or disabled people.
This isn’t good enough. We need a care system that is fit for the 21st century and it must be a shared ambition between government, councils and their health partners. It’s not enough to keep papering over the cracks. Getting this right is crucial for the future sustainability of social care and the NHS, and for the quality of care people receive.
Simply put, if adult social care remains underfunded, the most vulnerable will not get the care they deserve and the NHS will remain under pressure. This is a situation in which neither health nor social care wins, and it is the people who need care who will suffer the most.
The government needs to invest money in protecting a system that is there to look after people in the long-term and not just in the immediate term – and it should be a priority for next month’s budget to do just that. ……….’