I believe that providing decent social care is a fundamental part of a civilized society. It is a key aspect of wellbeing for all. As part of localism I believe that social care should be provided as close to each person as possible and therefore most support could be provided by the parish with extra support for more sophisticated services provide by the county. Apart from providing guidance on good practice and auditing the services provided I believe that there is little need fro the national government to become involved in social care provision or funding.
The cost of social care is increasing as the number of older people with care needs rises. Liberal Democrats have fought hard to protect adult social care funding, and have provided £7.2bn despite tough times. We’ve also led the way in reforms for a long term approach, with work to better join up health and social care to prevent problems before they arise. In the next national parliament we will go further, by:
- spending a further £8bn on the NHS each year by 2020
- introducing a carers bonus worth £250 each year
- continuing with the integration of health and social care services
- implementing a cap on the lifetime cost of care
- and commissioning a fundamental review of NHS and social care finances to ensure sustainability of services going forward
The funding situation: The cost for adult social care is rising as the population ages. county government, which is responsible for social care (but is not allowed to raise funds to pay for it by the national government), spent £14.6 billion on it in 2013/14 – 35 per cent of their budget compared to 30 per cent in 2010/11[i]. The national coalition committed an extra £7.2bn over a four year period to meet demand for social care, while local government spending in total has had to decrease. Social care provision has also been protected by funding transferred from the NHS and money transferred from other local authority services. Efficiency savings have also been made to the adult social care budgets, via measures such as outsourcing services and changing providers.
Pressures: Pressures on social care funding have meant councils have had to focus services on those with the most acute care needs, meaning in some areas help at home for basic tasks such as washing and dressing or ‘meals on wheels’ have been cut. This has led to criticism from Labour and others that social care has been underfunded, and that this has led to a decline in the quality of care – with shorter home visits and care workers on zero hours contracts. There have also been claims that that poor care has led to pressures on A&E departments, as problems should have been prevented by care services.
Joining up health and social care: NHS and social care services do not currently work well enough together, this often means people go hospital when it would have been better for them to get care at home. Services need to be joined up around patients in response, this which blurs the distinction between the roles of GPs, hospitals, district nurses, physiotherapists and care workers.
Liberal Democrats have championed joining up of health and social care services, to help prevent health problems occurring. The £5.3 billion Better Care Fund supports transformation and integration of health and social care services via pooled budgets that shift resources into social care and community services.
Cap on care costs: At present only people with assets of less than £23,250 and low incomes receive any help from the State with their care and support costs. People who develop severe care and support needs that need to be met over many years may stand to lose all their homes and savings. In response to the Dilnot Report[ii] the Coalition has set out plans to place a cap of £72,000 on care costs and financial support will be available to anyone with less than £118,000 of assets. Under the old system, 40,000 people a year had to sell their home to pay for social care.
Liberal Democrats say:
Liberal Democrats have fought hard to protect social care funding, ensuring an extra £7.2bn was provided over four years
We’ve had to make difficult decisions about funding in order to bring the deficit under control. Liberal Democrats have got a record of making those decisions fairly, as the extra money we’ve provided for adult social care shows.
We appreciate the pressures on social care funding – that’s why we have committed to commission a fundamental review of NHS and social care finances before the next Spending Review to ensure the sustainability of services going forward.
We’ve been leading the way in joining up health and social care. Our Better Care Fund provides £5.3 billion in joint budgets to ensure health and social care services are commissioned together. Building on this model, we would set out a duty for local areas to agree commissioning plans and pool the whole of the health and care budget. This will allow services to be more joined up around patients and provide care closer to home. It would remove the inefficiencies caused by maintaining two separate systems and improve the quality of care.
We will implement the Dilnot Report proposals for a cap on the cost of social care. These reforms which we have legislated for will stop older people having to sell their homes to pay for their care costs. For the first time, people will have certainty about what their care will cost.
Liberal Democrats want to do more to support carers who do such invaluable work across the country supporting their friends or family members. If Liberal Democrats are in the national government after the election we will introduce a £250 year ‘carers bonus’ which would help contribute to living costs or the cost of a short break.