When I heard the announcement that the Government was creating a £3.8bn pot to fund social care my heart sank. Not because the funding isn’t needed. It clearly and quite desperately is. But this isn’t new money. It’s money that is currently in the “ring fenced, protected” NHS budget and used to provide services free at the point of need. It is the equivalent of taking £16m from every hospital!
Interestingly, this money will be “moved” to fund social care services that are means tested. I haven’t done the maths, but I doubt that this additional funding will come close to filling the gap created by the further 10% cut in local authority budgets announced by the Chancellor in the same speech. A recent survey by ADASS, the Directors of Adult Social Services, has shown that the cuts to Local Government spending to date have resulted in £2.68 billion being taken out of local provision of adult social care services – the equivalent of 20% of social care budgets.
Using NHS funding to create pooled budgets to fund health and social care isn’t new. It’s been happening on an increasing basis since 2011. Previously plans needed local approval by two parties Councils and Primary Care Trusts. The Department of Health wasn’t involved. Worryingly this time to access the funding, local areas (Local Authorities, CCGs and Health & Wellbeing Boards) will need to have their plans approved by central government. And at least £1bn of the £3.8bn will be paid on the basis of “local results”. I’m not sure what that means, but for an area with the scale of health inequalities we have, I’m not sure it bodes well.
Many CCGs in the North East are already expressing concerns about their current financial allocations. I don’t see how this move will do anything other than add unnecessary complexity to an existing funding crisis where organisations are struggling to adequately meet the needs and expectations of the communities they serve.