Councils call for clarity on social care funding

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There needs to be more clarity over a £3.8bn scheme aimed to integrate health and social care, local government officials have said.

The Local Government Association said that the Government needs to commit to the Better Care Fund for a five-year period “to avoid the care system spiralling towards a deeper crisis”.

A spokeswoman said there was a lack of clarity over the future of the scheme after the initial first year.

The LGA said that local areas have already pooled £5.4bn for 2015/16, 40 per cent more than the £3.8bn minimum required 
by the Department of Health, but it is urging the Government to commit to the joint fund until 2020.

The association has also called for a separate transformation fund to ease the initial impact of the changes.

But it stressed that joint funding for health and social care will provide residents with a better quality of care at home and reduce the need for hospital beds. It will also support people being discharged from hospital, prevent unnecessary admissions at weekends and reduce admissions to residential care.

The initiative, which will draw £1.9bn of funds from the NHS to support joined-up working between health and social care services from April next year, has drawn criticism in recent weeks.

A report by health think tank the King’s Fund said that the financial pressure facing the NHS has been “exacerbated” by the introduction of the fund.

And recent reports suggested that the move was to be delayed because Whitehall mandarins said the present plans are not credible.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We have already been clear that pooled budgets are likely to be an enduring part of the health and care system, with Ministers on the record saying that areas should plan on the basis that this is more than a one-year programme.”

She added: “Decisions on future funding will be made at the next spending review in the normal way, but in the meantime, the Better Care Fund is already kickstarting the process of joining up health and social care across the country and areas have a big job to do in making this work from next April.”