Baroness Liz Barker writes…Osborne’s social care omnishambles

This week I am asking the Tory government how much revenue they anticipate local authorities will raise from May 2016 when they are given the power to add to council tax a precept of up to 2% to fund social care.

During the last government  Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb achieved something which had eluded all governments of the last thirty years, an equitable and sustainable settlement for social care. The Care Act restated the purpose of social care:  enabling the wellbeing  of both the person needing care and their carer, prevention and delay of the need for care and support and putting people  in control of their care.  The inclusion of the main proposals of the Dilnot Commission, paved the way for a funding system in which the costs of care would be shared, essentially between property owners and the state, thereby enabling individuals to avoid having to meet catastrophic costs at times of greatest vulnerability. 

Few Tories understand the need for, and importance of social care. George Osborne certainly doesn’t. That noise you heard during the 2015 spending review announcement of the new power to raise the precept was the sound of the Tories kicking social care into the long grass – again.

In 2015 The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that the precept would raise “£1.7bn a year by 2019-20 if used in full”.  At the time pf writing eight local authorities have announced that they will not use the precept.  In 2016-2017 the precept is expected to raise £382m almost all of which will be swallowed up by the cost of meeting the new living wage for existing low paid care staff.  So not only will the pre-existing underfunding of social care continue but, with no guarantee that councils who have agreed to fund the precept this year will do so in future, it seems likely to get worse.

Although the Care Act sets out minimum entitlements to assessment, information and advice,  the types and levels of care which individuals can expect are subject to the discretion of local authorities.  It is already well known that areas of highest deprivation are least able to raise income through local taxation.   Newham. Manchester and Hull are amongst authorities which will be on the sharp end of this policy. Unless and until the Better care Fund is properly funded to equalise disparities, inequality of social care will get worse.

Osborne thought he had pulled off another great sleight of hand. Turns out this is just another omnishambles. I and my colleagues in the Lords will be standing up for vulnerable people in poor communities, and when we are through with that we will be joining you on the phone and the doorstep.

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  • David Warren 20th Apr '16 - 10:56am

    From where I am sitting (as a carer) I haven’t seen any substantial improvement in the system from when I started caring back in 2009.

    There is little or no help for us carers and the cared for don’t get the help they deserve.

    In addition the people working in the industry are low paid, overworked and often poorly trained.

    Liberal Democrats do have the best record on Health and Social Care but compared with the other parties that is saying much.

    If only the party would listen to people like me who have first hand experience.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 20th Apr '16 - 1:38pm

    Baroness Barker
    You do admirable work , but the comments of a good colleague like David above , worry me , as a society we have replaced listening to the directly experienced , with believing in the apparently expert !

    We presume too often they are the same people .They often are not !

  • David Warren 20th Apr '16 - 5:54pm

    Thanks Lorenzo.

    Its the lack of interest that concerns me most.

  • Social care is something the Lib Dems could really major on but we need loud, well informed and determined voices to lead the way and sustain the fight for positive change. Please listen to people like David who have first hand experience of a dysfunctional social care system.

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