I have been waiting an awfully long time to see a budget that headlines on social care funding. An additional £2bn of funding for social care in England over the next three years, the first billon of which will be available in 2017/18. And it didn’t end with the money. The promise of a Green Paper on social care will look at future funding and provision of the sector that gets little recognition in comparison to its big brother the NHS.
So with all this good new why aren’t I jumping for joy. We as a sector have at last got what we have been asking for, for so many years.
It’s precisely this reason why I am not jumping for joy, the years have taken their toll. The chronic under investment in social care for years. The impact that has had on both individuals and the public purse. £2billion is an enormous sum of money but realistically it will won’t fix a broken system just patch it up in places.
I have been in this sector for a long time to know that behind the headlines there is little that will make a difference for independent social care operators like us providing front line services. And I have good reason to believe this.
Take for example the additional funding announced in the last budget – local authority’s ability to increase council tax to pay for social care. Most of the local authorities we work with chose to implement this levy yet only one gave us a small increase in the fees it pays on behalf of its residents who live in our care homes and can’t afford to pay for their own care.
With over 65% of our current care home residents being funded by their local authority this isn’t about penny’s but hundreds of thousands of pounds. For the best part of a decade fees from local authorities have remained static whilst costs have increased due to increased levels of frailty and combination of government legalisation including the National Living Wage. The weekly shortfall between the fees paid by a local authority and the actual cost of care for every local authority funded resident is now in excess of £400. With almost 650 people living in our residential care it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out this amounts to millions of pounds each year that we, the community, need to find if we are to be able to continue to provide care to all.
There is no magic fix when it comes to social care funding. There isn’t enough money in the public purse to meet social care costs now and their certainly won’t be in the future.
As the sun shines through my office window I am all too aware that I need to grab onto the rays of light and the opportunity ahead. We at Jewish Care will do all we can to ensure that our voice is heard over the coming months to influence the outcome of the Green Paper on the future of adult social care.
We will continue to ask for an increase in the fees paid by local authorities to bridge the growing gaps between fees paid and the true cost of care. Vital to this is the need to ring-fence additional funding to ensure money given to local authorities for social care finds its way to front line social care providers like us.
But it is more than that. Now is the time we as a society need to recognise that funding into social care will always be under pressure. The only real way we are going to be able to deliver high quality care services is to develop a partnership between individuals, their families, the state and providers like Jewish Care. We will be calling on the government, in the green paper, to clarify the role of third party contributions in meeting shortfalls between local authority fees and the true cost of care and to be vocal and open with future generations about their obligations to meeting social care costs.
My rays of light often come from within this organisation and our caring and generous community. We as a community will need to continue to invest in our social care services to ensure that we can provide for all regardless of their ability to pay. Without this continued support I would struggle to see the sun shining through.