Behind the headlines

regular panel comments on a topic in the news.

on social care is to go up 6 per cent a year for the next three years, thanks
to the chancellor’s Budget. That equates to an extra £2.4bn, or £3.2bn if you
include extra funding announced earlier. But how will the money be spent? On
improved salaries to help alleviate the recruitment crisis? On more services
for clients? On getting older people out of hospital more quickly or on fines
for not doing so? On paying off the overspends afflicting a good many social
services departments? Of course, the money was accompanied by high expectations
of social services performance.  There
will be financial incentives for more joint working, including the care trusts,
and there will be an all-powerful Commission for Social Care Inspection to
ensure that the new cash is used effectively.

commission, which will combine the Social Services Inspectorate with the infant
National Care Standards Commission, will be independent.  Unlike the SSI, an arm of the Department of
Health, the commission will be directly accountable to parliament through its
independently appointed commissioner.

Ross, social services director and primary care trust chief executive, London
Borough of Barking and Dagenham
"We must stop thinking separately about funding health and social care
– any improvements made to one have a direct impact on the other. We should be
as delighted with the extra NHS money as we are with the cash allocated to
social services. It’s a major, radical step change. We can now move forward
confidently knowing that public services are supported. I’m totally opposed to
the so-called fining for delayed discharges – it’ll just suck money out from
social into acute care."

Badham, programme manager, Children’s Society
"It’s a lot better than what used to get meted out to those most in
need. We have expansion in social care, with emphasis on a better deal for
families and the NHS. Much more must be done to tackle child poverty and bring
equality of access to public services. The new Commission for Social Care
Inspection sounds good: integration is excellent as long as inspection
standards are not diluted."

Collier, chief executive, BAAF Adoption & Fostering
"We welcome the chancellor’s investment of £2.7m to tackle child
poverty, the creation of the child credit, and the linking of future increases
of the credit to earnings rather than prices. However, there are still 3.9
million children living in poverty in the UK and tackling this will require
sustained action over a long period. We also welcome the above-inflation
investment in social services, but we must question whether even this level of
funding can realistically meet the scale of the challenges ahead."

Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute for Health, University of
"Delivering the NHS Plan is the most important official publication on
social care since the NHS Plan itself. Overall, the budget and this subsequent
publication constitute excellent news on the financial front, though the plea
for spending on social care to match that on health has not been met. But in
important respects social care is still being treated as an adjunct to the NHS.
Policies like cross-charging could spill blood rather than cement partnerships,
and Milburn is still hinting darkly at compulsory care trusts."

Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the Elderly
"I broadly welcome the new money and also the moves to penalise local
authorities over slow discharge, but I hope the quality of the discharge
process will be taken into account. I welcome the merger of the SSI and the
National Care Standards Commission, but it should have been done at the start
of developing the NCSC. It is my view that these moves will end in the demise
of social services departments as we currently know them."

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