Government social care plans fall £10bn short

Glynn Doherty, social care trade union organiser

Working people this year face a tax increase on top of rocketing prices for energy, transport and food. The health and social care levy is being funded by a 1.25% hike in national insurance contributions which kicked in from April.

The levy was heralded, by the Tory government but almost nobody else, as a breakthrough to provide adequate funding for social care. But of the £12 billion a year due from the levy, only £5.4 billion is reserved for social care over the first three years. The rest goes to the NHS to clear its post-pandemic backlog.

Now, a report from the County Councils Network says authorities are expected to spend more than £25.5 billion funding social care reforms over the next decade – almost £10 billion more than the government estimate of £15.6 billion. From October 2023, councils will cover the cost of ensuring care providers receive adequate payment for their services and fund a person’s care above an £86,000 lifetime cap.

County and rural unitary authorities are expected to be hit hardest by the reforms, with an estimated funding gap of £9.4 billion over the next decade, the report said. The South East is faced with a largest potential shortfall of £3.8 billion, the East of England faces a £1.7 billion gap, the North West £1.6 billion and the South West £1.3 billion.

Councils will need to employ a further 4,300 social workers to complete care assessments and review services as part of the reforms, the report said. This, in addition to filling the existing 1,800 vacancies, is projected to cost councils £1.9 billion over the next decade.

David Fothergill, chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Potential underfunding of these reforms would only exacerbate pre-existing significant pressures, which the reforms – and the funding for them – do nothing to address.

“These include unmet and under-met need, greater strain on unpaid carers and increased waiting times for assessments and delivery of care packages.”

So, despite the extra taxes we’re being forced to pay to fund social care and health, we now find out they won’t fund social care and health to anywhere near the level we were promised! This is just one more reason why health and care workers need to be on the streets of London on 18 June. To demand fully funded publicly owned care services, paid for by the super-rich and to bring an end to profiteering from our ill health!