Budget millions to head off care crisis ‘too little, too late’

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EMERGENCY funding promised by Chancellor Philip Hammond will not be enough to solve the crisis in care for the elderly, a think-tank has warned.

The £2 billion promised to councils in this month’s Budget is described as “too little, and it may be too late” in a report by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).

The report warns the focus of the care system in recent years has been on squeezing costs or rationing which will not be addressed by the new money.

Ministers have promised to set out longer term plans for the care system later this year and the report calls for broader solutions, including helping people pay for their own care.

Jonathan Carr-West, LGiU’s chief executive, said: “The current home care system serves no one well.

“Hospitals are short of beds because the frail cannot be discharged. Care workers are undervalued and underpaid.

“People who need care do not always get the care they need when they need it. Local authorities that commission care are having their budgets slashed so mercilessly that they are faced with a stark choice - ration care further or pay for care at a rate so low that care businesses will limp along until they can go no further.”

Mr Carr-West described the care system as facing a “systemic crisis” which would not be solved by attempts to “tinker around with small changes”.

He added: “We need radical reform in the way that we pay for and purchase care.”

The report points to the growing number of home care providers going out of business as evidence of the crisis in the system.

It calls on councils to review decisions to cut the hourly rate they pay to care providers and to insist on “open books” so they can see how the money feeds through to the pay received by frontline staff.

The report also makes the case for moving away from a system that focuses on how much time carers spend with clients to one measured by the quality of life enjoyed by those receiving care.

Mr Hammond promised an extra £2 billion over three years after councils, including those run by Conserative administrations, appealed for help to meet growing demand.

However, the care funding gap for the coming financial year alone has been put at around £2 billion.