Cash shortfall 'hits care reforms'

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Local government leaders and charities have warned of a £135 million shortfall in funding for social care reforms, which they say could jeopardise changes designed to improve the lives of older people, carers, and the disabled.

As the Care Bill entered the final stages of its passage through Parliament, a group of councils and health and care charities warned that the Government's failure to fund local authorities in full for new responsibilities will force them to divert cash from the Better Care Fund, which is earmarked for new work to "join up" health and social care.

Without changes to the legislation, they said that money intended for initiatives to provide seven-day services to support patients after discharge from hospital, prevent unnecessary admissions at weekends and reduce admissions to residential care, will instead have to be spent on new requirements to introduce carers' assessments, implement safeguarding boards and set new eligibility criteria.

The Local Government Association (LGA), the Association for the Directors of Social Services (ADASS), the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) - which represents over 70 health and care charities - and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) issued a joint call for ministers to back an amendment which would give a board made up of representatives of the Department of Health, councils and the care sector the opportunity to offer feedback on whether enough money is being provided to implement the Bill.

The chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, Katie Hall, said it would be a "tragedy" if lack of funding prevented councils from delivering on the "good intentions" of the Bill.

"The Care Bill is a real opportunity to make the care system fit for the 21st Century," said Ms Hall.
"We are calling for Government to work with us to ensure that our shared ambition for a care system which meets the needs of Britain's elderly is not compromised.

"We must prevent the cracks already evident in our starved adult social care system from becoming wider. Unless adult social care funding is put on a sustainable footing, social care services and the reforms will remain substantially underfunded and will suffer as a result."

ADASS president Sandie Keene said: "We said when we published our budget survey last year that the financial situation for social care is bleak and getting bleaker. It really is crucial that the integrity of the fundamental changes envisioned in the Care Bill is not jeopardised by short change."

And Richard Hawkes, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, said: "The Care Bill has the potential to be a landmark piece of legislation, transforming the social care system... The success of the Care Bill will be jeopardised unless it is matched with a sustainable funding solution so that older and disabled people who need care can get it.

"The winter A&E pressures, lonely older people, caring families unable to work, and disabled people struggling to live independently are all urgent, challenging issues for this Government. But behind them is a simple point: the need to fund councils sufficiently to organise enough care for the people who need this help."

Dr Jo Farrar, lead on health and social care for Solace, said: "If our joint aspiration for world-class care is to be realised these reforms must be adequately funded. Those responsible for delivering the reforms on the ground need to be able to give an informed view about the funding required."

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