Funding the care system

The social care system is in crisis.

The Government’s response – the Care Bill – is being scrutinised in the Lords. It seeks to tackle the crisis in care by introducing a cap on costs, a new means-testing threshold and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care.

The benefits of taking action are almost self-evident – imagine not being able to get up, get dressed and get out of the house.

But getting a system that works costs cold, hard cash and in an age of austerity that’s in short supply.

In recent years hard-up councils have tightened their criteria, meaning that disabled people might need more frequent hospitalisation, be unable to continue living in their own home, more likely to experience depression and fall into debt or lead a less healthy lifestyle.

Does that mean we will be stuck with a persistently underfunded system with an ever-tightening rationing of resources? Not necessarily.

Cash on the table

As reported in the Financial Times, five leading disability charities have revealed that the economic benefits from government investment in social care for disabled people are substantial. We can break the downward spiral.

Through advice and support for everyday activities from budgeting, and communication to help in the home the study found we all benefit from preventing disabled people’s care needs increasing and relying on more costly public services.

Earlier this year, the five charities lifted the lid on the scale of the crisis revealing that care for disabled people was underfunded by £1.2 billion. The case for plugging that gap just became even stronger.

Money talks

The debate on how we fund social care has – ahead of the government spending review on June 26 – is a hot topic.

Government plans are backed up by a recent announcement about greater integration between health and social care. The proposals include making joined-up and co-ordinated health and care the norm by 2018 and agreeing a definition of what people say good integrated care and support looks and feels like.

Shadow education secretary Andy Burnham waded in over the weekend when he said, “Labour would invest £1.2bn over the next two years to ease the crisis in social care – tackling a root cause of the pressure on A&E.”

With pressure on A&E’s hitting the headlines, Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said: “And the elephant in the room, we don’t have enough social care beds and social care facilities so patients can be looked after in more appropriate places.”

A recent inquiry comprising a cross-party panel of MPs and Peers, led by Baroness Campbell, a well-known disabled peer, and Heather Wheeler, an influential Tory MP, called on the Government to use NHS cash to help fund social care to fix a system that is devastating lives.

The case for a properly funded social care is gathering momentum.

A Care Bill that does not go hand in hand with extra funding is at risk of failing the millions of people who rely on care in their day-to-day lives. The economic case for action is now as compelling as the human one.