Two ministers have dismissed mounting evidence of a care funding crisis and have repeatedly insisted that local councils have all the money they need to “effectively” deliver social care services.
Both social care minister Gillian Keegan and local government minister Kemi Badenoch told MPs on Tuesday that there was no need for an urgent funding increase for adult social care in England.
Boris Johnson repeated the message in prime minister’s questions yesterday (Wednesday) when he insisted that his government was “fixing” social care.
Keegan and Badenoch’s evidence to the Commons levelling up, housing and communities committee came just days after the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services warned that a survey had found more than half a million adults were waiting for social care in England.
In February, Disability News Service revealed how research had shown that tens of thousands of disabled people across the country were having debt collection action taken against them every year by their local authorities over unpaid care charges.
In the same month, an ombudsman ruled that a disabled woman took her own life after being wrongly sent a string of invoices demanding payment of care charges she did not owe.
But Keegan and Badenoch insisted on Tuesday that local councils had all the money they needed to provide adult social care.
Keegan told the committee that there was “more money going into the system than ever before”.
She added: “There is in our assessment sufficient funding to allow councils to continue to effectively deliver adult social care services, but there’s no doubt that what we are talking about is a system that needs to be reformed.”
Badenoch told the committee: “We think the funding is at the right amount.”
And she added: “As far as we can see, we are providing enough money to the sector.”
She admitted later: “The demand for adult social care in particular is really outstripping the rate at which we can fund it.”
But she then added: “Given the growth that we have at the moment in the country… I think we are doing relatively well in terms of funding adult social care.”
Keegan continually stressed the importance of the much-criticised government reforms that will introduce a new £86,000 cap on care charges in England but will not count financial contributions made by local authorities to people’s care and support.
The disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, who has led parliamentary attempts to ease the burden of care charges on working-age disabled people, has described those reforms as “criminal” and warned that they “will continue to push disabled people of all ages into greater poverty and dependency”.
But Keegan said the government’s funding reforms, and work to integrate the health and social care systems, would make a crucial difference to the adult social care system.
When asked whether ministers would be asked the same questions again about the social care funding crisis after the government’s next announcement of departmental spending allocations, Keegan said such questions were “just a normal part of the discussions about how you allocate resources”.
She said later: “Of course we recognise that the quality of care, the sustainability of care, the investment in the workforce, all of that needs to change, which is why we’ve put these reforms in place.
“These reforms, plus the integration reforms, which I think are a very important foundational pillar as well, to make sure that the system works for better for people, I do believe if we get those right then it will transform our social care system.”
Picture: Gillian Keegan (second from left) and Kemi Badenoch (second from right) giving evidence this week
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