It is now approaching two and a half years since the Government first committed to publishing a Green Paper on the future of adult social care, in the 2017 Spring Budget.
We have, of course, been through a unique period politically, with Brexit taking up a considerable amount of time. But that is no excuse for such inaction in the face of the growing crisis impacting upon everyone with care and support needs.
Our adult social care system faces a £3.6 billion funding gap by 2025 and is creaking under further, unsustainable pressure, preventing many people from living their lives to the full. One-off injections of funding over the past year, while helpful, will only continue the short-term approach of incremental handouts that do little to help efforts to plan for the medium to long term.
“Reshaping care and support to be the best it can be is in everybody’s interests
Following yet another delay to the Green Paper 12 months ago, the LGA decided to produce its own version – ‘The lives we want to lead’ – drawing on the work that it and many others had already conducted.
This was written in only five weeks, with its launch kick-starting a two-month consultation period involving five focus groups across the country, more than 1,700 members of the public polled on key questions, and more than 540 individuals and organisations submitting their responses.
We published our follow-up report, setting out our findings and key recommendations, two months later. Our new publication, launched at the LGA’s annual conference in early July, reflects on another year of inertia and inaction from government.
‘One year on: the LGA green paper for adult social care and wellbeing’ gives perspectives on two broad issues from people who use services and those close to the system; what life is like for people who experience care and support, and on the debate about the future of adult social care and where that might go next.
They provide a stark reminder of why reshaping care and support to be the best it can be is in everybody’s interests, why further delays to the Government’s Green Paper cannot continue, and why we are calling for it to be published before Parliament rises in September for the party conferences.
The Green Paper should include a proper consultation on funding options and be accompanied by a government-led and sector-wide campaign to raise awareness of what adult social care and support is, why it matters in its own right and what it could and should be with the right funding and investment.
We have also reiterated our offer to write to relevant politicians, inviting them to take part in cross-party talks hosted by us to find the right way forward on this issue, at a time when cooperation is needed now more than ever.
Finally, and as an absolute minimum, the Government should use the forthcoming Spending Review to close the projected £3.6 billion social care funding gap, to meet both immediate and future core pressures.
The increase in funding needed to achieve this is similar to the 3.4 per cent annual real terms increase given to the NHS, although the total actual amount would be much less. For comparison, the extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023/24 for the NHS is more than the entire annual net spend on adult social care, which was £15.33 billion in 2017/18.
The LGA, like many others, stands ready to work with the Government to help continue the much-needed debate about the future of this vital public service.