It is wrong for politicians to be alarmist, to cause concern in order to score political points. It’s referred to as “shroud-waving”. I’ve criticised others for doing so, and I’ve thought long and hard about publishing this post. I do so not to win votes or do down the other side, but out of genuine fear both for for the people who need social care and those charged with providing it.
I posted recently about the competing campaigns against various cuts we are being forced to make to services because of the reduction and eventual removal of the Government’s Revenue Support Grant which until now has provided around a third of our funding. As that funding reduces and ultimately disappears, the cost of providing social care services is rising rapidly.
Those cost increases are down to a huge range of factors. An ageing population, increasing poverty, welfare reform, growing pressures on the NHS, growing numbers of children being identified as a risk, and more. It is right that care workers are paid the Living Wage, but the requirement on providers to pay it brings a cost.
In around four years, without a combination of additional resources and new ways of working, the costs of social care will consume the entire council budget, save for some basic environmental services like refuse collection. In the coming year almost £20 million of risk has been identified across our social care services in Brighton and Hove.
High profile failures like Victoria Climbie, Baby P or Rotherham cannot be allowed to happen again if we can possibly prevent it.
Whether it is services for frail older people, vulnerable adults with learning disabilities, or children at risk of abuse, it is your local council that is responsible for looking after them. If those council care services fail, it is the service directors who are held legally responsible. Councillors are legally and morally responsible as corporate parents for children in care.
Without a proper funding regime involving the collaboration of all agencies, any further cuts to social care budgets by the Government could, in the near future, lead to formal notification by those directors that they cannot guarantee a safe level of care.
The 2% council tax increase, ring-fenced for social care, will bring in an extra £2.2 million each year. It sounds a lot but it isn’t sufficient to meet the increased costs and demand.
Urgent action on the part of Government is needed, before people are put at risk.