Amid some excitement about the profound changes going on in adult social care, there is much uncertainty. The impact of personalisation and prevention on the delivery of services is one ingredient of this uncertainty much discussed at a conference of the nation’s social services directors in the Cheshire countryside last week.
Also much discussed was another major ingredient, the government’s promised green paper on how overstretched services are to be funded as the numbers of frail older people continue to grow.
Some of these entirely predictable anxieties could have been alleviated if the government had stuck to its original timetable for the green paper, which had been expected in the autumn. Yet the public consultation needed before it can be written, and likely to take six months or more, still hasn’t started. Given the enormous challenge of persuading the public that they should contribute more towards social care, the chances of seeing the green paper before next spring must now be remote.
Experience in Scotland, which has had a policy of free personal care for nearly six years, shows the difficulty of finding a sustainable funding formula. The Sutherland review called this week for an additional £40m annually to plug the funding gap. High costs make free personal care south of the border as likely as a Sahara snowman, but the sooner the Department of Health gets to work on a plan, the better.
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