Column: Wrong values and priorities

Clive Betts
Clive Betts
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The all-party communities and local government committee, which I chair, has just published its report on adult social care.

Before the budget, we had called on the Chancellor to bring forward £1.5 billion from the Better Care Fund to meet the shortfall in 2017–18 and also commit to closing the adult social care funding shortfall for the years to 2019–20. Instead, he announced an additional £2 billion for social care over the next three years. That is well short of the amount necessary, even taking into account the additional council tax precepts on which he insisted.

Our final report says that there must be a review to produce a fundamental reform for the long term, developed on a cross-party basis and involving the public and social care sector, to meet the ever-increasing demographic pressures.

That review must be ambitious and should consider a wide range of potential funding sources, looking again at age-related expenditure, options such as a hypothecated tax for social care, a compulsory insurance scheme, and differences in how individuals contribute.

The review must also take a wide look at how and on what those resources will be spent in the future – on support, on preventative care and intervention, on the care workforce. We must end up with a system which ensures that care users are at the centre of how care is organised and that they get the assistance they deserve.

You may remember that, in 2011, the Dilnot Commission had recommended putting a cap of about £35,000 on social care contributions and that means-tested contributions should only be made if you had more than £100,000 of assets. Eventually the government agreed a £72,000 cap and a £118,000 upper asset limit ,but then delayed it till 2020. Meanwhile, thousands of elderly people, with assets of just £23,000, are using up nearly all those assets on funding their care.

At the same time council budgets have been cut by government ,so although social care has been given priority its funding has still fallen by 8 per cent since 2010 as the number of elderly has continued to rise. That’s why adult social care funding is in crisis.

As the crisis grew the Chancellor was refusing to fund essential social care while confirming plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold at a cost of £1bn.

This will benefit just 1 in 2,500 people nationally, who own homes valued at more than £650,000. Last year, just 112 such homes in Sheffield (67 in Hallam, but none in Brightside) were sold.