MPs urge Philip Hammond to ease 'acute' pressure on social care in Budget

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Philip Hammond should use his Budget to provide an urgent funding boost for social care, a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

The Chancellor should bring forward £1.5 billion earmarked for 2019-20 to fill the funding gap councils are facing from April, the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee said.

The MPs said pressure on social care was "acute" and the Government's decision to allow authorities to raise council tax by an extra 3% was "not adequate" to meet the funding shortfall.

The Local Government Association (LGA) backed the committee's demand and warned that social care services were "on the brink of collapse".

Estimates of the black hole in social care funding for 2017-18 range between £1.3 billion and £1.9 billion and the gap could be as high as £2.6 billion by 2019-20.

The report noted that councils had seen their overall budgets cut since 2010, and efforts to make efficiencies and find savings were no longer sustainable.

Councils had moved from doing "more for less" to "less for less", the report said, and "there is evidence that people are not getting the care required or that the care they already have is not being increased as their needs grow".

The crisis in social care funding has been blamed for adding to pressure on the NHS as patients who do not need to be in hospital cannot be discharged if proper arrangements are not in place for them in the community.

As well as an ageing population, the introduction of the national living wage has increased the cost of providing care, the report noted.

The MPs called on Mr Hammond to use his March 8 Budget to promise that £1.5 billion of money from the improved Better Care Fund should be brought forward from 2019-20 to 2017-18.

The recommendation came in an interim report by the committee following a four-month probe into social care. 

The committee's Labour chairman Clive Betts said: "The adult social care sector provides care and support to adults of all ages with care needs to enable them to lead independent and fulfilling lives.

"Throughout our inquiry we have heard powerful evidence from all parts of the sector, including people who receive council-funded social care services, about the stress the system is under.

"The Government should bring forward £1.5 billion from the improved Better Care Fund to help social care services meet the immediate pressures over the next year and then commit to closing the funding gap up to 2020.

"While short-term action is vital, there are funding, structural, and other problems facing the social care sector in the medium and long-term which we shall be addressing in our final report published next month".

Izzi Seccombe, who chairs the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: "We are delighted that MPs have backed our call for councils to be urgently given new money to plug the funding gap in social care, as well as the need for a long-term review that finds a sustainable solution to the social care crisis.

"The case for new funding is more overwhelming than ever, with the services which provide care for elderly and disabled people on the brink of collapse.

"We have been clear all along that with social care facing a funding gap of £2.6 billion by 2020, it is vital Government properly funds these services if we are to ensure people can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives in the community, and reduce pressures on the NHS."

A Government spokesman said: "We recognise the pressures of an ageing population, which is why we are giving local authorities access to £7.6 billion of new money for adult social care.

"This Government has gone further to integrate health and social care than any other before it. We have brought budgets together for the first time through the Better Care Fund and given the NHS an extra £10 billion per year by 2020/21 to fund its own plan to build a more responsive, modern health system.

"But this is not solely about money, which is why we are working to find a long-term, sustainable solution which helps local authorities learn from each other to raise standards across the whole system."

Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope, said: "Disabled people are waiting for the Chancellor to invest in our crumbling social care system. The Budget is an opportunity that should not be missed.

"The social care system is on the brink of collapse and a lack of funding is leaving hundreds of thousands of disabled people without vital care to support them to live independently."