Treasury spending review unlikely to resolve social care funding woes

The Department of Health is playing down expectations that its funding review of social care will translate into a good settlement for the sector in next year’s comprehensive spending review.

That was the message from a report of meetings of the DH review, published in the August newsletter of care home umbrella body the English Community Care Association.

ECCA’s director of policy Ann Mackay, who attended the meetings, reported DH officials as saying that “politicians were starting to understand that something fundamental needed to be done on social care”.

However, “what could be achieved in the short term was limited” by the Treasury’s promise of a tight funding settlement in next year’s spending review.

Instead, Mackay’s notes say, DH officials want to move social care up the political agenda through its funding review to “set out a strategy for reform for the next 10-20 years”.

The news came as it emerged that at least three, and as many as six, councils are restricting adult social services to people with critical needs, due to the pressures on resources from increased demand, NHS cuts and tight government grants.

Hampshire’s deputy director of adult services John Clifton claimed six councils were already restricting services to critical cases, under the Fair Access to Care Services regulations. The council is consulting on restricting its eligibility to critical, though the policy would not come into force before the new year.

Three councils admitted they had raised eligibility thresholds to critical due to increased pressures on services as a result of NHS cuts, in a Local Government Association survey of 55 authorities affected by health deficits.

North Yorkshire and West Berkshire councils are among those that already have critical thresholds.

The DH’s funding review
The review is designed to quantify funding pressures on social care and to inform the DH’s spending review bid. Issues for debate include the impact of increased numbers of older people, the increased lifespans of people with learning difficulties and the impact of policy changes, such as individual budgets.

Further information
English Community Care Association

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