Magazine article Public Finance

Money for Old Hope

Magazine article Public Finance

Money for Old Hope

Article excerpt

The recent announcement by the government of the funding it is giving to local authorities next year is very bad news for social care services in particular and for disabled and older people.

The increase for adult social care services is only 3%, despite the tremendous pressures they already face. Also, the 'get out of jail' cards that local authorities previously turned to within the public sector finance game have been taken out of the pack. Because of capping, councils are no longer allowed to turn to the 'community chest' of council tax to compensate for the inadeguacy of central government funding.

It is also difficult for local authorities to keep putting up the charges for services, generating financial contributions from the service users, as the social security benefit increases being received by disabled and older people are very low for next year.

So why the pressure on local authority social care expenditure?

First, there are many more very disabled and very elderly people living in our communities.

Second, the costs of labourintensive personal care services in a competitive employment market mean that the actual cost of services rise above standard inflation. Particularly in rural areas, the cost of transport is also increasing well beyond standard inflation because of the higher cost of fuel.

But, thirdly, the most significant change is the narrowing of the definition of what an NHS responsibility is.

Despite getting significant increases in funding (8% for the forthcoming financial year), the NHS still continues to overspend. In Wiltshire, for example, the three primary care trusts are being reguired to take quick, dramatic and drastic action to reduce expenditure by £25m.

The responsibility for what were NHS-funded services is now being transferred to local authority social services, but no money is being transferred with this.

For example, as vacancies are held to make savings in community health services, home carers are undertaking tasks such as changing dressings, treating pressure sores, stoma and catheter care, foot care and the supervision of medicines.

The NHS is also narrowing its definition of whom it should be funding within nursing and residential care home services. For example, the NHS no longer accepts that it has a responsibility to fund services for people who, following accidents, trauma and degenerative disorders, require assisted breathing and tube feeding, or who, as a consequence of brain injury or extreme mental illness, require close supervision and behaviour management. …

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