Budget 2017: Elderly care cash ‘will not solve the problem’

The Budget includes new cash for elderly care.
The Budget includes new cash for elderly care.
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COUNCIL leaders in Yorkshire warned Philip Hammond’s promise of £2bn would not be enough to end the crisis in elderly care in the region.

The Chancellor admitted the social care was “clearly under pressure” and this in turn was having an impact on the health service as hospitals struggle to find places for elderly patients will enough to be discharged.

His promise of £2bn over the next three years, including an extra £1bn in the coming financial year, follows concerted pressure from councils, including Conservative-run authorities such as North Yorkshire County Council, to address the problem.

However, Mr Hammond did not shed light on longer term plans for care, promising more detail later in the year, prompting accusations the Government was not tackling the problem with enough urgency.

Councils in Yorkshire spend around 40 per cent of their budgets on elderly care at a cost of £1.4bn.

Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe has previously warned the authority will be able to afford to do little more than care for the elderly in the coming years unless funding improves.

She said: “Given the straitened circumstances all local authorities are in, any new money to deliver social care is welcome.

“However £2 billion is a lot less than the £5.9 billion funding gap nationally which the Local Government Association has identified.”

Coun Hinchcliffe also expressed concern that the formula for distributing the cash could be manipulated to direct the money to Conservative-controlled councils.

Ahead of the Budget Theresa May had come under pressure over fresh revelations about Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council’s decision to scrap a potentially embarassing 15 per cent council tax rise following talks with the Government over money to help with its elderly care bill.

The Prime Minister insisted there had been no special deal for Surrey and the same arrangements were available for all local authorities.

Sheffield South-East MP Clive Betts said the promise of £1bn in the coming financial year was “well short” of the £1.5bn the Communities and Local Government committee, which he chairs, had recommended was needed.

He added: “The Government should provide explicit confirmation that the funding today is new money. From the Budget documents it is not clear this is the case.

“The announcement of a Green Paper on social care in the long term is welcome but to provide an effective solution to the challenges for our social care system this should be part of an urgent review, undertaken on a cross-party basis.”

There was also concern that the focus of the money was on helping the NHS free up beds occupied by elderly patients rather than improving care standards overall.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit think-tank said: “Social care is not just about freeing up hospital beds, it’s about managing the overall well being of the people who live in a place.

“That connects with health care but also with housing, keeping people healthy, management of public space and local economies.”