Social care: Ministers to set out funding plans
Details of how councils in England will be able to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on social care in the next two years are to be outlined.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to sanction a rise in council tax bills to 2018-2019 to pay for more frail and elderly people and dementia patients to be cared for at home.
Theresa May says it will help relieve immediate pressures on the system.
But Labour and councils say such a funding boost would be inadequate.
Campaigners have been calling for investment to be brought forward to tackle what they say is a funding crisis in services for the elderly and disabled.
The government was criticised after the annual £20bn adult social care budget was not mentioned in last month’s Autumn Statement, and local authorities have complained about cuts to the funding they receive from Whitehall.
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On Wednesday, it emerged the government would offer councils an increase in the extra council tax they can impose to cover social care costs.
Mr Javid is expected to confirm in Thursday’s local government funding settlement that the annual council tax care precept will no longer be limited to 2% but will rise to either 3% in each of the next two years or be increased to 4% next year.
A 1% increase would raise an estimated £200m.
Because the total increase over three years can be no more than 6%, there would be no precept in year three if the increases were brought forward.
The BBC’s health editor, Hugh Pym, said he understood there would be some flexibility for councils.
Labour has said transferring the financial burden to councils is a “con” and that funding for social care had been cut by £4.6bn during the last Parliament.
Its leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was a crisis “made in Downing Street” and urged ministers to reverse corporation tax cuts to pay for the billions he says are needed to allow people to be cared for with dignity and relieve the pressure on hospitals.
Labour has said the idea of the precept – which raised an extra £383m this year – is flawed because areas of high deprivation, among those with the greatest demand for social care, have lower property values and council tax incomes.
Mrs May has insisted the government is investing in social care through its Better Care Fund, as well as taking steps to more closely integrate health and social care provision.
She said Labour had done little to tackle the problem during its 13 years in power and many Labour councils had not used the extra powers available to them to raise funds.
Council tax accounts for only about half of local authority income – the rest coming from central grants, which are being cut, and business rates, which are volatile – so it is unclear by how much care budgets will rise.
‘Social contract’ The Local Government Association says it is committed to reducing delays in discharging patients from hospitals and allowing people to be looked after at home but warned the system is at “breaking point” due to budget cuts.
The numbers of elderly people going without care, paying for it themselves or relying on family and friends currently outstrip those getting council help by four to one.
The head of the NHS in England has suggested free bus passes and pension benefits for older people may have to be reconsidered to address the problems facing social care.
Appearing before MPs on Thursday, Simon Stevens said a sweeping new “social contract” was needed setting out the “full range of services and needs that people have in retirement”, predicated on the right for people to receive care in their homes.
“There is no point in saying to our parents ‘yes you’ve got a free bus pass if you’re not able to leave the house because you don’t have the availability of a home help,” he said.