Social care is in crisis – the Tories must face up to it

In the last six months, more than one hundred home-based and residential care providers have ceased trading, affecting more than 5,300 people, as providers hand back contracts to more than sixty councils, affecting thousands of people. Social care faces a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025. Social care is in crisis and we have a government which is turning a blind eye to it.

Obsessed with Brexit, they have repeatedly ignored the challenge of social care and kicked it into the long grass. A long-delayed green paper on social care that was promised for June has yet again failed to materialise, along with the one they promised on social housing. Don’t get me started on that as well!

But local government, so used to picking up the pieces of central government failure, doesn’t think this crisis can be ignored any longer. We cannot allow this to continue. This week the cross-party Local Government Association has filled the vacuum left by a failing Tory government and published our own green paper on social care to kick start the honest and open debate we need about the care vulnerable people should receive and how it should be paid for. If the government isn’t willing to lead this debate then we will.

It is an ambitious and wide-ranging public consultation that sets out how the system can be improved and made more sustainable. It also highlights the sometimes radical options that need to be considered to tackle the funding crisis facing adult social care head-on.

LGA figures estimate that there will be a funding gap of almost £8bn by 2025. This makes it an even more urgent issue for the government to address – all the work we have seen in the last few years could be undone if this issue isn’t sorted.

Many of us will come into contact with the social care system at some point in our lives, be that because a loved one needs social care or because we need social care ourselves. Recent polling shows that the public and politicians support greater funding for social care. There is increasing consensus that a long-term solution is needed in terms of funding, and an increasing appetite to make the system fairer. To date our party has lead this debate we were the only party that had a clear and costed proposal for social care and health funding in our manifesto at the last election – which I am delighted is included as part of the consultation.

It is not enough just to fund the same model of care, which tries to patch people up when they are already in need of care and support. Councils and their partners in the NHS and community organisations want to develop community-based preventative support, linked into wider services such as housing, public health, leisure and recreation to keep people well and independent for as long as possible. And Liberal Democrat led Councils across the country from Sutton to Cumbria, Bedford to Cornwall our Councils are leading the way.

I would encourage everyone, regardless of whether you or your loved ones have needed social care or not, to read the LGA green paper and to respond to the consultation with your thoughts. You can do so here.

* Councillor Howard Sykes MBE is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association. The LGA is a politically-led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government.

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19 Comments

  • David Warren 6th Aug '18 - 4:57pm

    The other issue that must be faced up to is that the privatisation of Adult Social Care has resulted in the crisis we now see.

    Sadly leading figures in the Lib Dem parliamentary party refuse to acknowledge this.

    Of course more money is always a good thing but radical reform is what is really needed.

    I have responded to the consultation and suggested a publicly funded national care service.

    It would be great if others would join me.

  • Little Jackie Paper 6th Aug '18 - 6:32pm

    ‘Obsessed with Brexit, they have repeatedly ignored the challenge of social care and kicked it into the long grass.’

    Well hold on a moment… I’m far from being the sort that would usually speak up for the Conservatives, but on this occasion Mrs May deserves rather better than this!

    Given that she went into the 2017 election with a very clear wish to tackle social care I would say that the is the first PM in a very, very long time to grapple with social care. OK, it went down badly (see for example the ‘Theresa May Estate Agent’ nonsense). So what? I keep hearing liberals tell me that the main parties pander and duck the tough questions – well there you were! The PM making an unpopular analysis and trying to do something radical and long term.

    At best her critics were guilty of the exact duck they so often have accused government of. At worst that was actively saying that the maintenance of property windfalls for boomers was more important than a real effort to sort out social care.

    I have no problem with the idea that May’s idea should not have been the last word. We can (should) argue about moral hazards. We should question whether money could be moved around to better fund social care, most notably from the pension triple lock. We can ask whether it is right that money from family homes should end up with private banks and insurers. None of that however detracts from the fact that when push came to shove few were willing to rock the boat on property wealth and that an awful lot of people have had a very sweet deal on housing that the young are not going to get.

    In 10 years’ time we may well be back at something that looks like the May idea. In fairness to all of May, Corbyn and Cable social care is so problematic because their predecessors all ducked – May to her credit at least asked the question.

    That link (https://futureofadultsocialcare.co.uk/summary-green-paper/six-how-should-we-pay-for-these-changes/) appears to say nothing about property wealth and appears to essentially look to tax increases plus a bit of tinkering. That’s certainly one approach, but is any mention of an option that looks to property wealth totally taboo now?

  • Jackie,
    May might have asked the question but since the election she’s not attempted to answer it; why pray is that, could it be because something begining with B consumes all. I think you know the answer to that is a rather large YES.

  • nigel hunter 6th Aug '18 - 11:02pm

    Yes money will come in handy, Social Care MUST be coped with. It is time for innovation and creativity to be used. Innovation ,ie robots as companions, creativity, organisations individuals creating using their ideas to develop and encourage help in all manner of ways. Brain storming exercises to develop the future needs locally, nationally within the population
    This creativity innovation to develop future models for care of individuals and groups should start in schools for they ,when adults, will be the carers.

  • Lord Willetts (now Chair of the Resolution Foundation) has entered the fray warning that the era of tax cuts is over https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/baby-boomers-tax-old-age-nhs-lord-willetts-resolution-foundation-a8240316.html.

    As the Independent notes the Liberal Democrats have long been proponents of property tax reform. We need to get on with and have a clear and unequivocal position on the reforms required in advance of the next election that doesn’t involve putting the equivalent of 15p on the basic rate of income tax for working age adults, as Willetts warns.

  • We keep bumping up against the following fact “You get what you pay for”, unfortunately you still get politicians spinning the lie that “you can get more with less”. While the voters keep voting for the “more with less” option they really shouldn’t be surprised that they get very little. Before someone asks do you like paying taxes, no, no more than I like paying for petrol but I accept if I don’t pay for petrol I’m not going anywhere.

  • William Fowler 7th Aug '18 - 8:32am

    Social care needs to be taken away from councils and run as part of the NHS. There should be no threat of people losing their houses but funding could come from treating inherited wealth as income and getting rid of the inheritance tax allowance, inheritance monies when received by the individual would then be taxed as income, so small amounts to the poor would probably not be taxed at all whilst large amounts to the rich would be taxed at 40-45 percent. This seems fair to me and removes the threat of councils stealing people’s homes whilst they are at death’s door. If this money was ring-fenced for social care a large segment of the populace would accept it as fair – as long as things like family trusts and other cons set up to avoid inheritance tax were also taxed heavily.

  • Peter Hirst 7th Aug '18 - 12:50pm

    You are right that many people can remain out of institutional care with the right package of support that requires social as well as care services. We should also provide a scheme that incentivises care by family such as paid leave and the right to request reduced hours to care for an elderly relative. Parents moving to live close to their children could be made easier combined with downsizing by building more mixed estates, perhaps with a discount for family members.

  • David Warren 7th Aug '18 - 2:26pm

    Really good comments @PeterHirst. I particularly like the idea of schemes to enable elderly parents to be move closer to family.

    The days when families stayed in one town or city for generations are long gone.

    Unfortunately in my experience adult social care teams lack any innovation. The approach seems to be put in a home care package and/or move into residential establishment.

    Both involve sub contracting out to the private sector a model which has failed.

  • Laurence Cox 7th Aug '18 - 7:45pm

    @Joe Bourke

    But it all depends how LVT is implemented. If it is a tax levied by local councils in replacement for Council Tax, that would not be too bad because it would be going back to something like the old rates. But people like ALTER want it to be a nationally-levied tax, which means that it would fall disproportionately on London and the South East. We have seen what happened when May tried to introduce a new tax to pay for social care and we immediately branded it a ‘dementia tax’ and accused her of selling people’s homes to pay for their care. A nationally-levied LVT would cause riots that would make the poll tax protests look like a Sunday-afternoon picnic and they would be taking place in London because that would be the place hit hardest by LVT.

  • David Raw,

    There are two key objectives:

    1. To raise revenue by bringing rented property, second homes and land held out of use into a reformed business rates regime based on land rental values.
    2. To make property tax more progressive by aligning tax assessments proportionally with land rental assessments net of a personal housing allowance.

    For council tax reform I would propose a four year transition period concurrent with the conference motion on reform of business rates.

    The first year would begin with land rental valuations for properties currently in bands G&H i.e. the highest value properties. In Year 2 bands E&F, Year 3 bands C&D and finally the lowest value properties in bands A&B.

    The first year would see the majority of expected additional revenue coming in from the extension of business rates to rented property, second homes and land held out of use; and the move to proportionate assessments for the highest value residential properties in bands G&H.

  • Helen Dudden 10th Aug '18 - 8:05am

    I think we should start with housing. How many homes are wheel chair friendly? In Bath, where students have more home builds than anyone, it’s in very short supply. A few ago, I had an infection in my leg, I live several miles away from my family, suitable housing in short supply, it was Sunday, I needed medical treatment. It was either pay around £20 for a taxi, or wait for the bus to the hospital in Bath. Two buses. My family don’t have cars. Older people at present are supposed to have family support, but the housing does not match these options. It’s not that easy depending on bus services of you are less able.

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