This week’s Autumn Statement from the Chancellor seems to finally put paid to any pretence of ‘compassionate conservatism’ as, subtly he put social care under increasing economic pressure and impacted on the lives of the millions who need social care services to help them in their everyday lives.
There were multiple blows to social care, none of which actually identified it but the implications are there and the vulnerable in society will suffer from the impact.
Firstly there was central Government spending. George Osborne announced that all Westminster departments will need to cut spending further. There were only a few exceptions, his own department HMRC, education and the NHS. There is an important distinction here, as the NHS is not the whole of the Department of Health and the social care side of the DH looks like it will have to reduce spending in line with the cuts made across other departments meaning less money to essential front line services.
On top of this local authority spending will have to be cut further. Back in October the President of the Association of Directors of Adult Services warned the care services were on the edge (see here) and the prospect of extra cuts can only mean those vital services may tip over the edge as less and less people either fall out of eligibility criteria or services become so time orientated that any form of personalised care goes out the window.
Yet the cuts to local authority spending will have a secondary impact. Under the health reforms the responsibility for public health functions was transferred to local authorities including things such as health protection, public health initiatives to tackle social inclusion, initiatives to reduce seasonal mortality rates, public mental health services and many more which have a direct impact on the lives of those who need social care services.
The real irony is that investment in social care and public health could actually be more beneficial to the NHS budget than simply ring-fencing that alone. It is well documented that prevention services mean less need for hospital admissions etc, people prefer to remain at home during illness and home care with preventative public health services can increase the likelihood of that.
So the Autumn Statement proposals are not just punitive punishment on those who need social care services but they are also false economics.
The other aspect of social care overlooked by the Government is the fact that not all people who need social care services are over the age of 65. Many people with learning disabilities receive ordinary benefits which have now been capped meaning an increasing number will fall further into poverty. The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities stated that only 7% of people with learning disabilities are in employment yet 65% want a job. It is unfair to label these people as shirkers when it is the Government’s failure to create an economic climate that creates full-time jobs.
In addition to all of this we have the lack of action on social care funding in general, it has been nearly 18 months since the Dilnot Commission submitted its final report yet still nothing has happened, the urgency with which the Government launched the commission has totally and utterly turned into a lethargy of inaction.
There are millions of people with social care striving to make life as bearable as possible yet the shirkers in Westminster seem to determined to make that as hard as possible.