Crippling pressure on social care budgets means many older people are getting “stuck” in hospital beds and authorities are having to make impossible decisions about what care they can offer, council leaders have warned.
They claim adult social care is in crisis with too many vulnerable people being let down following huge cuts in council spending and are urging the Government to ensure next month’s Budget offers the same protection to social care as to the NHS.
If nothing is done elderly and disabled people could be left without the support they need to stay out of hospital and live in their own homes for longer, the Local Government Association (LGA) says. It argues that while councils have tried to protect spending, growing demand, escalating costs and what it says is a 40 per cent cut to local authority budgets across this parliament means they are having to make “impossible” decisions about what care they can afford.
Continuing to protect and invest money in the NHS while forcing councils to cut their already “chronically underfunded” social care budgets is a false economy, said the LGA.
David Sparks, LGA chairman said: “Adult social care funding is in crisis. We have seen first-hand the devastating effects that a chronically underfunded social care system can have on people’s lives this winter by leaving them stuck in hospital without the care they need.
“Too many older people are being let down by a system which leaves them languishing in hospital beds while they wait for an alternative, or consigned to residential care because we lack the capacity to help them live independently.”
Councils spent £14.6bn on adult social services nationwide in 2013/14 and it accounts for an increasing share of spending.
Coun John Blackie, leader of Richmondshire District Council, said he supported the LGA call for parity protection: “It is particularly important in Richmondshire, where in our deeply rural areas in the Upper Dales, the percentage of elderly people in the local communities is at least twice the national average, up to nearly 30% of the population.”
Coun Dave Green, the leader of Bradford Council said: “Investing in social care can relieve the pressure on health services and improve the quality of life for thousands of people in the region.”
Richard Hawkes, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance, which represents over 75 charities said it supported the LGA’s calls.
A Government spokesman said: “We have given an extra £1.1bn to councils to help protect social care services this year, that’s on top of additional funding made available in response to winter pressures. The new £5.3bn Better Care Fund, the first ever programme to join up health and social care, is also designed to help people to live independently for as long as possible.”
The spokesman claimed the Government had delivered a fair settlement to every part of the country: “north and south, rural and urban, city and shire.”