This week, the House of Commons debated the Care Bill. Labour MPs queued up to claim that central Government funding cuts were to blame for councils narrowing the social care they give to the elderly and disabled – only helping those with “critical” or “substantial” needs rather than including those with “moderate” needs.
The attack ignored two points.
Firstly, in 2010 the great majority of the relevant councils – 108 of them – only provided help for those judged to have substantial needs. The Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Burnham, said “councils have cut eligibility criteria”. However, his council, Labour-run Wigan, had already cut services under the last Government. It has only given help to those with “substantial” needs for years.
Another Labour MP, Liz Kendall, said that “Adult social care budgets have been cut by £2.7 billion under this Government. The result is that fewer people are getting the care they desperately need”. So who does she blame for her Labour-run council, Leicester, having only provided help for those with substantial care since 2005?
The same point applies to Bill Esterson in Sefton. Ditto the Labour MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, and her council South Tyneside. Same again for Grahame Morris and his Labour-run Durham Council.
Superficially another Labour MP, Barbara Keeley, might seem on stronger ground. She said:
Salford local authority, is one of the many that are reluctantly having to cut their eligibility criteria this year. Salford tried to stick with the moderate level and this is the third year of cuts.
However, this leads on to the second point. Councils can provide better adult social care despite a reduced budget. In Hammersmith and Fulham we provide care to those with “greater moderate” needs as well as those with substantial and critical needs. Yet we have saved a lot of money. Adult social care is included in our tri-borough arrangement with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster which has reduced spending on bureaucracy.
Spending more on adaptions and those with moderate needs avoids the much higher costs of those who end up requiring residential care.
We have worked with the NHS – so that, for example, each carer is allowed to carry out a range tasks. Hitherto there would be an NHS carer who would provide the pills and then a Council carer providing food and washing.
We have also saved money by a “Quality Assurance” programme to ensure that our social workers are doing an effective job. We have encouraged Personal Budgets – which, for example, allows someone to pay for a relative to care for them who will often be able to do a better job and again reduce the prospect of deterioration and the need for someone to end up in a care home.
Miss Keeley should ask her council what they are doing in these areas. She should challenge them over whether they are really doing everything possible before being so willing to concede that they “have” to cut services to her most vulnerable constituents.