The green paper on adult social care promised in the comprehensive spending review will provide the perfect opportunity to consider new ways of pooling health and local government budgets for older people.
Local Government Association chair Simon Milton told the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Bournemouth that health and social care services “had to find a way in which the funding can be amalgamated”.
He said it was up to local government to highlight the mutual benefit of continuing to fund what were often seen as “trivial support services”, such as providing slippers for older people to prevent falls, as such services prevented hospital admissions and saved the NHS money.
His comments came as results of an LGA-commissioned Ipsos Mori poll revealed a startling disparity between the level of service people expect from their council in old age and the reality they will face.
The research found that nine out of 10 adults expect subsidised care from their council in old age, with only 5% saying they would expect to pay for all their basic care – such as help with shopping, bathing and cleaning – out of their own pockets.
“This research is particularly timely given the extent to which government has failed to provide any money for the 400,000 more older people expected to need care in the next three years,” Milton said.
Responding to a question from a conference delegate, he strongly denied suggestions that the LGA and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services had failed to convince the chancellor of the growing pressure on adult social care associated with changing demographics, insisting that ministers had largely agreed with the facts and figures presented.
“The issue wasn’t that ministers don’t value services for older people,” Milton told local government officers and councillors. “It’s simply that government has far less money to spend; it is writing policy cheques that it can’t cash.
“Education has remained one of the highest priorities, as has the NHS. And by and large, that is where the funding has gone.”
Milton told the conference that local government did not begrudge increased health spending, but had “a legitimate interest in how it is best invested”.
“The NHS is currently fixated by the need to meet targets on reducing hospital waiting lists, and so nationally we see the majority of resources and management time and energy directed to this rather than into community care,” Milton said.
“Unless there is explicit additional resource for NHS community care or a willingness to transfer funding from the acute sector, we will not be able to invest in preventive services that would really transform the lives of older people.”