“Meagre” new funding announced by the government will do nothing to solve the “full-blown social care crisis”, disabled campaigners have warned.
They spoke out after the government announced that it would ring-fence an extra £240 million for councils to spend on adult social care next year, as well as allowing local authorities to bring forward council tax increases that were already set to raise further ring-fenced social care funding.
But user-led groups, disabled activists, disability charities and cross-party politicians say the extra funding will be inadequate for dealing with the crisis.
The announcement last week by communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) will mean councils can raise council tax by up to three per cent in both 2017-18 (an extra £208 million) and 2018-19 (an extra £444 million), instead of two per cent in each of the next three years.
He also announced that £240 million from changes to what his department calls the New Homes Bonus – rewarding councils for new homes built in their areas – will be ring-fenced as a new adult social care grant.
Campaigners and social care experts pointed out that the rise in council tax will raise far more in wealthy areas than less prosperous local authorities.
And a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman confirmed that the £240 million was a one-off grant, and would not be repeated next year.
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said: “Social care seems to have become the policy that anti-spending governments have decided can safely be ignored and left in crisis. So it goes on.
“Another year where all the weak-willed efforts of social care’s self-appointed leaders and big charities to encourage policymakers to make some real investment have again failed.
“Also where all the desperate efforts of grassroots disabled people’s users’ and carers’ organisations have been ignored.
“But you heard it here first. Social care may well be the policy – because of the scale and impact of its failure – that irrevocably damages this government and brings to an end the evils of austerity and anti-welfare policies. It is hurting too many.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the government’s “inadequate response” to the “full blown crisis in social care” had been criticised by both opposition and Tory politicians.
She said the rise in council tax “leaves areas with the highest levels of need unable to raise sufficient money”.
She pointed to evidence from Ray James, the immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, who has told MPs that the most affluent areas raise about two-thirds of their council spending through council tax, compared to the most deprived areas that raise less than 20 per cent, so increasing council tax “raises least money in areas of greatest need”.
Burnip said that the government’s pledge to redistribute funding from its Better Care Fund (BCF) to areas unable to raise enough money through increases in council tax had also been criticised, because this would “reduce the amount available for transformation and integration of care, the purpose for which the BCF was originally established”.
She said: “Further, but of vital importance, particularly to the disabled people’s movement, these proposals are aimed at providing basic social care only and do not in any way address issues of the right to live independently in the community.
“A loss of this [UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities] article 19 right is one of the major areas of criticism aimed at the government by the recent damning UN report.
“Independent living is a right and aspiration that disabled people in the UK must never lose sight of as a basic and fundamental human right.”
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said she agreed that the extra money was not enough, that raising extra funding through council tax increases was unfair, and that the government did not appear to have a plan for solving the social care funding crisis.
She added: “My fear is that the meagre additional funds that do become available will go straight to social care service-providers who are becoming a well-organised lobbying force, rather than to disabled people who want to have choice and control by employing our own personal assistants.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to the prime minister to ask for “urgent talks at the highest level” on averting the “deepening crisis in social care”.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has written to chancellor Philip Hammond, calling on him to authorise further spending, and describing the rise in council tax as “inadequate, and fundamentally unfair”.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary and a former social care minister, described the extra money as “a truly feeble response to a national crisis”.
And Dr Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons health select committee, called for urgent cross-party talks to secure “a long-term, fair, sustainable settlement for both health and social care”.
The prime minister, Theresa May, told MPs on the Commons liaison committee this week that the government was starting to work on a long-term plan for addressing the funding of adult social care, but gave no hint as to what that plan might be.
Clive Betts, the Labour chair of the communities and local government committee, told May that the number of people receiving social care had fallen from 1.7 million to 1.1 million over the last six years, while there were now about one million people who should be entitled to social care but were not receiving it.
Real terms spending on social care fell by nine per cent over the last parliament, he said.
But May said: “It is wrong to assume that the only solution in social care is a solution about funding.”
She said there were different standards of delivery of social care across the country, with some “very good examples” of integration between NHS and social care, and areas where there were “virtually no” delayed discharges from hospital caused by a lack of social care in the community.
Betts said that Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, had told his committee last week that even if all councils were brought up to the standard of the best-performers and there was full integration of NHS and social care, it would still not solve the social care funding pressures.
Betts said: “The idea somehow that this problem is going to go away if we slightly improve performances in some local authorities and we integrate health and social care better, simply isn’t true, is it?”
May said the government accepted there were “short-term pressures” and a more medium-term problem with “delivery”, as well as a longer-term issue of ensuring a “sustainable system of social care going into the future”.
She said: “The government is already starting internally to look at this issue in relation to long-term social care.
“We want to make sure that we have got a solution that is going to be sustainable, but this isn’t going to be an immediate ‘let’s have a quick review over a matter of weeks, and that’s it’.”
She resisted requests to ensure that this review of future funding was carried out on a cross-party basis.