Local councils are responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient residential care provision to meet the needs of their populations. I understand from the Care Quality Commission that the number of care home places in the north-east has risen substantially and steadily in recent years.
A recent report from Bupa predicts a shortfall of 100,000 in the provision of care home beds nationally because of the cuts and because of our ageing population. That will obviously impact on hospital beds. How will the Minister prevent that from impacting on health care in the north-east if he is not going to ring-fence the social care budget?
First, let me re-emphasise that we know, on the basis of independent assessments that have been carried out, that across England there is a surplus of 50,000 care home places. As regards the provision of care home places and the funding of social care, we have committed to an extra £2 billion going into the system by 2014, half through local government and half directly via the NHS, to ensure that social care services receive support; and just this year, an extra £162 million will go to local authorities to support them in their social care activities.