Tag Archives: free personal care at home

What will be in the white paper?

After what seems like an eternity, the adult social care funding White Paper will finally be published tomorrow. So what will be in it? Here is my bit of crystal ball gazing…

Firstly, it will lay out Labour’s plans for a National Care Service that provides clear national entitlements for everyone, rather than the current postcode lottery. This was first mentioned in last year’s green paper and the idea at least was widely welcomed. The White Paper should flesh out exactly what that might entail and the funding for it.

The free personal care at home policy will also be in there. This has been championed by Gordon Brown and there isn’t a chance it will be dropped now, although the timing of its introduction may be put back until after the election.

In terms of funding, I expect that a ‘partnership’ model – where the state pays a portion of care costs and the service user pays the remainder – will be proposed. In the debate over funding, this seems to have garnered the most support and is something of a ‘middle’ way – and less politically divisive than, say, putting a levy on the estate of every person.

That option is a non-starter because the Conservatives branded it the “Death Tax”. Leaving aside whether it is a good idea or not, the negative publicity already around it would make implementing it political suicide.

Funding will probably be the most controversial part of this; while it is widely accepted that the current adult social care system needs to change, funding it is the tricky bit. For instance, the free personal care at home policy has been consistently lambasted because nobody believes the government’s estimate that it will cost £670 million – some say it could be more than £1 billion.

In addition, setting up a National Care Service, and contributing to everyone’s care costs, will cost billions. In a time where government departments – including the Department of Health – are scrabbling around trying to save billions, you wonder where the money would come from.

And then there is the election. The white paper will probably become a large spoke of the election campaign, which will be a bad thing. As I’ve mentioned previously, cross-party consensus is needed if the best solution for the public is to be reached. With an election, and all the ‘our policies good, your policies bad’ mudslinging that comes with it, this is out of the question.

Of course, the election also means that the White Paper may come to nought if Labour is ousted from power. The Tories have suggested they may go for another consultation before they do anything. If there is a hung parliament, who knows what will happen to it?

So, with that in mind, tomorrow’s White Paper may make promises, but it is by no means certain that essential reform will come to the sector just yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under adult social care, Social care funding

Personal care at home delay makes sense

Firstly, an apology for not updating the blog recently. This has been down to sheer volume of work – several projects all came in at once that required all my attention and didn’t allow me the time to sit and write a blog.

But these projects have been completed and normal service should now be resumed.

However, despite my little hiatus, the main debates in social care do not seemed to have moved on much. For instance, everyone is still speculating what will be in the adult social care funding white paper, nobody thinks that the government has got its sums right on the free personal care at home policy and councils are still causing controversy over cutbacks they are having to make to budgets. Plus ca change.

Taking one of those themes – free personal care – there was probably a collective sigh of relief among councils across England earlier this week when news came out that the House of Lords had voted to delay the measure until an independent review is carried out, which means that it is now unlikely to be implemented before the general election.

Many council chiefs have voiced their concerns over the costing of it (although not all, it has to be noted), with the phase ‘back of a fag packet’ used more than once.

While the bill is not yet dead – the government could still try to push it through – a delay in its implementation at least makes sense.

As Lord Best, a crossbench peer and president of the Local Government Association, said, there are worries that arrangements to help the 400,000 people it is expected to cover might not be up and running in the next few months – especially as there are local and national elections coming, with possible changes of leadership and policies – and that local authority budgets have already been set for 2010-11, so finding the funds is tough.

Pushing this bill through now could end up with services being rushed in, and just think of all the potential problems with that – getting the administration right, putting the care services in place, finding the funds – and that’s just for starters. The potential for it all going wrong is arguably high, which could end up harming service users, carers and social care staff.

If, after the election, it is still thought that free personal care at home is a viable proposition, then ministers should look at a timetable for implementation. Doing it now, with some many other things going on, is simply asking for trouble.

Leave a comment

Filed under adult social care, Social care funding

Money money money

Sometimes I wonder as I write these blogs if I am beginning to sound like a stuck record; the issue of funding – or more accurately, the lack of it – seems to crop up at some point in the majority of pieces I post.

But I make no apology for this. Funding is arguably the most important issue within social care at the moment.

While providing outcomes for service users should be the number one priority – and I’m willing to bet that, on the record, any politician or director of services worth their salt will argue that it is – I suspect that how social care is paid for is exercising them more.

For quite some time now, directors of adult and children’s services have accepted the fact that they will have to do more with less money in the coming years.

Now, many are starting to find out how much less they have; for example, Cambridgeshire County Council has announced that the adult social care budget for 2010/11 is being slashed by £10.3 million, as the council looks to save £88 million in total.

They are not alone; many councils across the UK are having to make similar size cuts, with the resulting risk to certain services – often those at the less critical end, such as meals on wheels.

In addition, the government’s free personal care at home plan is causing much concern within town halls. While few argue with the aim of the policy, many feel it simply cannot be paid for, especially as it is generally felt that Labour has significantly underestimated how much it will cost.

Cllr Graham Gibbens, cabinet member for Kent adult social services, as quoted on kentnews.co.uk, said: “In an ideal world, we would wish to give free personal care at home to as many elderly people as possible. However, it is simply not affordable, particularly since we are in the throes of a debt crisis.”

Gibbens’ quote neatly sums up the current reality of social care. In a recession, idealism counts for little; money influences all conversations now, and will do for some time to come, regardless of who wins the upcoming election.

Now, it is up to commissioners, providers and social care staff across the sector to accept this and work within these financial parameters to ensure the money available is used to the greatest effect.

It is a significant challenge, but one that they have no option but to rise to. It may force commissioners to be more innovative in their thinking, and providers to ensure they deliver value for money, but they have no option.

Leave a comment

Filed under adult social care, children's social work, Social care funding