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Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Council leaders call for nationwide public debate on future of social care

Written by Sally Wardle

Society "cannot duck" the issue of adult social care any longer, council leaders have warned, as they called for a debate on the future of services.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has launched a public consultation on how best to support the wellbeing of the elderly and disabled and how to pay for it.

The organisation said it had taken action after the Government's recent decision to delay its green paper on social care until the autumn, despite services being at "breaking point".

Since 2010, councils have had to bridge a £6 billion funding shortfall to maintain the current system, the LGA said, amid rising demand and underfunding.

The organisation, representing local authorities in England and Wales, estimates that adult social services will face a £3.5 billion funding gap annually by 2025.

It warned spending on adult social care currently accounts for around 40% of council budgets and is threatening the future of services such as parks, leisure centres and libraries.

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: "Work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support has been kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades and has brought these services to breaking point.

"It has created a deeply uncertain and worrying future outlook for people who use adult social care services now and the growing number of people who will need them in the future.

"We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer."

The LGA's "green paper" on adult social care sets out possible options for paying for the system.

They include increasing income tax, national insurance and council tax, and means testing for universal benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and TV licences.

It is hoped the consultation will start a "nationwide public debate" about the future of care, the LGA said.

Ms Seccombe (pictured) said: "Adult social care and support matters. We must fund it for the long term so that people of all ages can be supported to live the life they want to live.

"Building a better society means ensuring that everyone receives the care they need to lead a good life: Well, independent and at home for as long as possible.

"This process must start now."

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of trade body NHS Providers, said: "Social care and health are two sides of the same coin.

"The LGA's conversation about social care is vital to understand how we provide high quality, timely, cost effective support to everyone who needs it.

"Gathering views from the frontline about how we change has never been more important."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We have provided local authorities access to £9.4 billion in dedicated social care funding.

"Our green paper due in the autumn will set out our plans to reform the social care system to ensure it's sustainable for the future."

The LGA consultation will run for eight weeks from July 31 and the LGA will publish its findings before the Government's green paper.

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