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Social Care Budgets

Volume 609: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2016

8. What assessment he has made of the effect of changes to local authority social care budgets on demand for health services. (904944)

Good morning, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]and everyone.

There is a link between adult social care funding and demand for NHS services. More recent analysis shows no definitive relationship, but Forder’s 2009 study showed a £1 reduction in social care spend increasing NHS demand by 35p. That is why Government have driven the integration of health and social care, and given councils up to £3.5 billion of new support by 2019-20.

The Royal College of Surgeons has said that

“the new council tax precept will not raise enough funds for the areas of the country”

with the greatest need. In Newcastle, it will raise £1.7 million this year, but the funding gap is £15 million. Why is the Minister’s Government making my constituents pay more for worse social care, increasing the pressure on the NHS and causing misery for millions?

The better care fund has been adjusted to recognise that not all councils can raise a similar amount of money through the social care precept, so the issue that the hon. Lady raises has been noted and recognised. The only way in which the NHS can achieve better outcomes and meet the challenges of rising demand is through an increased focus on preventive community health and social care, and closer working with local authorities. That is what the pooled budget is designed to deliver, and that is what it will do.

Indeed, good morning, Mr Speaker.

A big challenge for local authorities and adult social care is how to fund the increases in the minimum wage that care providers have to pay. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) just detailed, the 2% social care precept does not cover all the increased costs and, indeed, in some areas, it is not even being passed on to care providers. The Local Government Association asked Ministers for £700 million from the better care fund to help with that increased cost this year and next year—not in 2019. When will Ministers listen to local councils and agree to bring forward that much needed funding to support what is effectively their own policy in the care sector?

I do not think that anyone fails to recognise that the next couple of years in social care will be very tight, but that is why the better care fund is there. Work has been done to increase the amount of money available to meet the challenges that the hon. Lady raises. I have to repeat that to fund this properly there has to be a sufficiently strong economy. There has to be the commitment to funding that the Government have been able to make almost uniquely in the House. I sometimes think it would help if she recognised the strength of the economy that has been able to do that by assisting local authorities, rather than complain about the amount of money available.