All the talk of a funding squeeze initiated by the comprehensive spending review, expected as we go to press, will not have been surprising to most of those who work in social care. It’s what they have become used to and the only question for them is “how much tighter can it get?”. Public sector rates of growth were always expected to slow during 2008-11, but a gloomy economic outlook will not have helped social care’s case for more money.
Yet, regardless of the continuing search for efficiency savings, its case remains a strong one. The struggle to pay for long-term care of older people, decent life chances for disabled people and children in care, and fostering allowances that cover existing costs never mind the challenges posed by the Care Matters white paper, shows why this is so. Pay restraint in the public sector will only make these difficulties harder to bear.
If the CSR has mapped out a direction of travel for long-term care and personalisation, it is an important step and could be professionally liberating for practitioners. But, as Sir Derek Wanless made clear on behalf of the King’s Fund, the government will have to dig into its pocket if it wants a lasting settlement.
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