Why we should give the Better Care Fund a chance

Today the National Audit Office published its verdict on the planning process for the first year of the Better Care Fund. Their report identified a gap between the scale of the Government’s ambitions and the quality of support originally offered to the NHS and local authorities.

While a lot of the coverage highlighted evidence that the Fund may not deliver the predicted savings for the NHS, the report also says it is a pioneering idea that will improve health and care services.

For Scope, the Better Care Fund can transform care for older and disabled people so they can live more independently.

The Fund is a crucial step in moving away from a system of costly acute care that only kicks in when people reach crisis point and towards preventative care close to home. It lays the foundations of an integrated care system and provides a real incentive for the NHS and social care services to work together.

A more integrated health and social care system would have significant benefits for disabled people, including:

  • Eliminating disputes over who should pay for care needs and fewer people falling between the cracks of health and social care funding
  • More choice and control
  • A more preventative care system which offers support before people reach crisis point.

If it’s successful the Fund will drive cultural change across the whole health and care system: that simply isn’t something that can happen overnight or before the plans have been implemented.

Of course the Fund can be improved in future.

So far the Government and local areas have mostly focused on joining up care for older people. That shows in the national guidance, performance measures and local plans for the first year of the Fund.

In future it makes financial sense for the Fund to have a much greater focus on the well-being and independence of disabled adults:

  • Disabled people under the age of 65 are one third of social care users
  • Over 50% of existing social care expenditure is spent on social care for working-age disabled people.
  • The number of working-age disabled people needing social care is projected to rise by 9.2% between 2010 and 2020.

It’s also crucial to remember that the Fund won’t help the growing number of disabled people with care needs who are not eligible for social care. Scope has long campaigned for the national eligibility threshold to be set at a lower level than proposed under the final Care Act regulations.

Without a lower eligibility threshold, disabled people with care needs will still be left without the vital support they need to live independently.

An integrated health and social care system cannot solve this problem on its own: the Better Care Fund must also be accompanied by a long-term investment in social care so that everyone who needs care gets it.