Last week we had an announcement that £3.8 billion will be given to social care yet official sources cloud this. For example the Department for Communities and Local Government describe it as;
“£3.8 billion, including £2 billion of new NHS investment, to improve adult social care and join up with health services. This will help older and vulnerable people to stay healthy and remain at home thereby avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions or emergency visits to A&E. To stimulate real change, £1 billion of this funding will be paid when local results are achieved.” (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/eric-pickles-hails-council-tax-5-year-freeze-and-38-billion-for-social-care)
In other words the money is for preventative health support to reduce the need for admissions in hospital.
Obviously this has to be welcomed by preventing a health issue becoming a health crisis the pressure on Accident & Emergency departments can be eased a little and, more importantly, being healthier should lead to a better quality of life for those who need social care services.
But what it does reveal is the ignorance of those in Westminster about what social care is.
Eric Pickles demonstrated this with his quote on the DCLG website saying;
“For the last 30 years all too often the care home, social services, and the local GP haven’t been working together to prevent unplanned hospitalisation of elderly or vulnerable people.”
The last set of statistics from the Health & Social Care Information Care show that care home residents only account for 14.6% of council funded care recipients. How, one wonders, does Mr Pickles think the new investment will help the 85.4% of social care users who are not in care home?
If the role of preventative health is to be transferred to social care then considerably more money will need to be ploughed into the sector. Social workers and social care workers are not health professionals and if it is to be their role to work with the health of an individual then they will need significant training in order to do so effectively. If however the onus is on health professionals then the money is not for social care it is simply transferring health funding!
Following on from the spending announcement we have learnt that the Care Bill will set the ‘substantial’ criteria as the benchmark for individuals to access care funding from the state.
The current ‘substantial’ criteria mentions health briefly, the majority focuses on personal dignity, daily living and family and community life and when the Care Bill final goes through there will be a significant increase in funded care users as many councils are currently only funding those with ‘critical’ needs. Therefore councils will need a staffing infrastructure to cope with this increase if current social workers are not to be totally overloaded with paperwork, especially if they also have to assess health needs!
Westminster seems to be clueless about social care and solutions to support people to live life in the way they want to is lacking as Ministers continue to confuse social care and health.
Social care should be about supporting people and bringing together the services they need. Health is just one of those services. A person’s health needs will vary over time and, where social care support is involved, it is social care’s responsibility to ensure the individual is able to access those health services, but social care also has a responsibility to ensure the individual is supported in every aspect of their life, from adaptations in housing to maintaining community links.
Social care is ever more important in society and demand for social care services will grow as the population ages. We need a social care service that is fit for now and the future and that cannot happen until those in Westminster recognise that they need to recognise the true importance of social care.