UNISON has long warned of the dangerous impact of this government’s attack on social care funding.
We expected the government would act during last month’s Autumn Statement, but there wasn’t a solitary mention of social care (and little in the way of public services whatsoever).
Today the government have finally acted – but their plan is completely insufficient to deal with the scale of the problems our social care system faces.
Social care needs a substantial injection of new cash – targeted at poorer areas of the country – and measures to ensure dignity is at the heart of the system for care users and workers.
Raising council tax bills allows authorities in affluent areas to generate more cash than poorer ones – where the need is greatest. Similarly ordinary families, struggling to make ends meet, can ill afford a hike in their council tax bills.
The government should be using the growing surplus in the government’s central share of business rates to ease the pressure on councils, not encouraging them to shift the care burden onto hard pressed local taxpayers and create an unfair postcode lottery of care.
Simply put, the government are planning £240m of additional funding to address the social care crisis (whilst claiming that £648m could be raised directly by cash strapped local councils being allowed to increase their council tax rates over two years)– but they’ve cut £4.6 billion from care budgets since 2010.
As I’ve said before, the impact – on those who need care and those who provide it – has been profound and damaging. Staff in social care often face salaries that amount to less than the minimum wage, never mind any sort of living wage. Some are facing pay cuts and many often have to work long hours, spending hours travelling between visits when they are not paid for their travel time. This inevitably makes it harder from them to provide consistent levels of dignified care.
If the government really wanted to solve the social care crisis, they’d provide the necessary funds. Instead they’ve gone for a half measure that doesn’t solve the problem – and merely passes the buck.