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House of Lords Hansard
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Social Care and Support: Funding
19 October 2015
Volume 765

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they propose to take to address the concerns about the availability of social care and support funding expressed in the joint statement Spending Review 2015: a representation from across the care and support sector.

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My Lords, social care is a priority for this Government, which is why we have established the better care fund to join up health and social care. We recognise that there are pressures on the system and we welcome the joint spending review representations from the care and support sector in helping us to understand these fully. The representations from the sector will help inform spending review decisions. The review will be announced on 25 November.

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I thank the Minister for his response. I emphasise that this very stark submission to government represents the collective view on the deepening social care crisis from care providers, commissioners and national organisations from across the private, public and voluntary sectors. While understanding that the Minister will not pre-empt the spending review, will he at least reassure the House that, in making the very welcome decision to introduce the national living wage from April next year, the Chancellor fully recognises the estimated additional £2.3 billion cost of this for the social care sector? Does he honestly expect councils to be able to meet this cost if the scale of cuts made over the last five years continues into the future and the Government fail to provide any substantial extra funds?

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As regards the position of the social care sector, “fragile” is putting it kindly. It is very difficult; there is no point making any bones about that. The increase in the living wage, which is long overdue and very welcome, will add to pressures on the sector. It was made very clear in the Five Year Forward View that the future of the healthcare system is very much tied up with the future of the social care sector. The noble Baroness can be assured that we have brought that to the attention of the Treasury and we are waiting for a favourable result in November.

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My Lords, the social care sector is in a perfect storm, with councils having faced a 30% cut in their social care budgets as well as the increase in the national living wage which—much as it is welcomed—it is estimated will cost an extra £1 billion. I ask the Minister once again: will the Government commit to spending the extra £6 billion that they are saving by not implementing Dilnot and ring-fence that money to support the social care sector through this very difficult time?

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I thank the noble Baroness for those comments. I do not recognise the size of the cut to which she alluded. The figures that I have seen indicate that in cash terms it has been broadly neutral over the last four years, representing a real-terms cut of probably more like 10%. However, I think we are cavilling over numbers here because I agree with her broader comments about the state of the social care sector. We have, indeed, noted the savings gained from the delay in implementing the Dilnot proposals, which have been brought to the attention of the Treasury.

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My Lords, while I recognise the Minister’s concern about the spending review, does he accept that the lack of proper provision of social care has a very profound effect on the rest of the economy? I offer as evidence a family carer to whom I spoke last week. She is a single mother. She looks after her mother, who has Alzheimer’s, and a son with severe learning difficulties. She has been doing so for many years. She has been receiving two afternoons a week of respite care for the son and gets one day of daycare for the mother. This rather minimal provision has just about enabled her to cope. Both those services have now been withdrawn. I fear that she will have a breakdown because she is so distressed and under pressure. If she does, all three of those people will be a charge on the state. Will the Minister explain how that makes any kind of economic sense?

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There is no doubt that what the noble Baroness says is true: the impact on other parts of the economy will be significant. It is also true that the impact on the healthcare system of reduced resources in social care will have an effect, which is why we are developing the better care fund and why we believe that more of the health and social care budgets should be pooled and used as one. Again, that is an integral part of the Five Year Forward View. At the risk of being boring, I am afraid that I will repeat myself: we will have to wait until the end of November before we know what the financial settlement is.

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My Lords, in view of the undoubted stringency of the forthcoming spending review, and all the pressures on social budgets we have just heard about, what words of comfort can the Minister give that care leavers, who are already an extremely disadvantaged group, will not be further disadvantaged as a result of all these financial pressures?

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I think that the only word of comfort I can give is that in the long run we will have a well-funded social care sector and a well-funded NHS only if we have a successful and productive economy, and we will have a successful and productive economy only if we can get government borrowing back to where it needs to be and so can begin to eliminate the government deficit.

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My Lords, does the Minister not realise that he is not just a disinterested observer in this matter? He has admitted a 10% reduction, he has said that the sector is “fragile”, and then he says that we have to wait until the settlement in November. What are he and his colleagues doing about saying to the Treasury, “This is a fragile sector. This is a sector that needs more money. This is a sector that is alarming many, many Members of the House of Lords”, and getting those messages over to the Government?

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What we are saying is that we have to fundamentally transform the health and social care sector so that it is fit for the kinds of patients living in today’s society, not those living in, frankly, 1948.

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My Lords, it seems an extraordinarily unreal situation—the present circumstances that people find themselves in. Day after day, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, pointed out, we hear about people having their hours cut, people finding that they no longer have carers and local authorities having huge cuts in their budgets. What is the Government’s plan if we do not get the settlement that we need from the spending review?

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I am afraid that I can only repeat what I said earlier: our plan is for health and social care to become more integrated and for more budgets to be pooled, and that by doing so we can transform the care we deliver to the very vulnerable people in our society.