Funding fever afoot as CSR announcement nears
Writes Mithran Samuel
Adult social care leaders are divided over the government’s intentions for the sector, with ministers due to announce future spending levels.
The government will announce its comprehensive spending review this month, setting government expenditure limits for 2008-11 and policy ambitions over a longer period.
Local government and the NHS are two of only a few service areas yet to receive their 2008-11 settlement and independent analysts the Institute for Fiscal Studies said there was scope to increase spending by 2% per year in real terms overall in these areas.
But since coming to power, prime minister Gordon Brown has said the NHS is his top priority, signalling that it may receive an increase in excess of 2%, leaving less for local government, despite current and expected funding pressures for adult social care.
Association of Director of Adult Social Services president Anne Williams said: “Negotiations are still going on as far as I understand.”
However, she said there had been “a real acceptance of the demographic pressures” facing councils in adult social care, and that the “same attention is going to have to be given to adult social care as has been given to pensions”
Ministers are also rumoured to be considering long-term changes to the funding system. One sector leader who did not wish to be named said the government may announce a green paper on the funding and delivery of adult social care, for publication next year, which could take forward some of the ideas in last year’s report for the King’s Fund by Derek Wanless.
This called for both significant increases in funding and the introduction of a guaranteed minimum level of free care for all, which people could top up with state assistance, to replace the current means-tested model.
The sector leader added: “The question is, will they go for Wanless or Wanless-light?”
Optimists have also focused on Gordon Brown’s references to carers and individual budgets in his Labour Party conference speech, and decision to set up a standing commission on carers.
However, Skills for Care chief executive Andrea Rowe urged caution: “There’s no room for celebration that there’s all this interest in social care politically.”