White paper ambitions could be thwarted by reluctance to spend

Care services minister Liam Byrne has promised an unprecedented campaign for more social care funding amid criticisms from the sector that the white paper’s vision will fail without extra resources.

He said the Department of Health would now start preparing its social care bid for the comprehensive spending review in 2007, in partnership with sector leaders and Sir Derek Wanless, whose own funding review is set to report this month.

Byrne said: “We haven’t geared up in such a way before.”

His comments follow claims that the health and social care white paper’s ambitions to promote preventive, community-based and personalised services require significant investment in social care, at a time when councils are being forced to cut services.

Although the policy document does not claim to be cost neutral for councils – unlike its predecessor, last year’s adult green paper – it makes no costed promises of extra cash.

David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community well-being board, said: “This year’s financial settlement has already placed enormous financial pressure on social services. In asking for sufficient funding, councils are not playing Oliver – they are simply saying the principles in the white paper should be financially supported.”

Help the Aged policy manager Jonathan Ellis said: “We are cautious as to the extent to which the shift towards preventive health and social care will actually be delivered. Specifically, tough eligibility criteria, borne out of restricted resources and an inherent ageist culture within health and social care services, means that older people cannot access help until their needs are critical.”

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt indicated there would be “modest” resources in 2006-7 and 2007-8 to fund new respite and information services for carers, promised in the white paper.

The paper also promises that primary care trusts will be performance managed from 2008 onwards on their ability to shift resources from acute care into preventive services, which Byrne claimed would benefit social care.

He said: “What social care professionals tell me is that they support the prevention agenda but they have limited finances available for it.”


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