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Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Tax rises needed to avoid collapse of adult social care, council leaders warn

Written by David Wilcock

Increasing income tax or national insurance contributions should be considered by the Government to avoid the collapse of adult social care, councils have warned.

The Local Government Authority (LGA) said that the current system was at "breaking point" after decades of underfunding by successive administrations, and needed a massive cash injection.

Ahead of the National Children and Adult Services Conference, which starts in Manchester on Wednesday, it released a survey which suggested that more than half of people (56%) would back an NI increase to fund better care.

The LGA says that despite recent cash injections by the Government, adult social care services still face a funding gap of £3.5 billion by 2025.

Ian Hudspeth (pictured), chairman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said finding a long-term solution has been "kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades".

"The Government must use its upcoming green paper to make a serious case for national tax rises including either increases to Income Tax and/or National Insurance to provide long term sustainability for the vital social care services that are central to helping people to live fulfilling, independent lives," he added.

"Now is the time for answers. And every day that is spent further defining the problem and consulting on changes that only really tinker at the edges of the debate, is another day in which people's lives are not being lived to the full.

"The Government needs to be bold in the solutions it puts forward, but it is incumbent upon politicians of all colours to cooperate and be part of a wider movement for change in the national interest."

As well as new money, the LGA set out other measures in what it called its "social green paper consultation" - which it wants the Government to include in its own official planned green paper.

They include reversing £600 million in cuts in the public health budget for the period 2015 to 2020, and launching a public campaign to raise awareness of what adult social care is and why it matters.

Shadow social care minister Barbara Keeley said: "This is another emphatic reminder of the catastrophic damage dealt by Tory cuts to the budgets of councils who deliver social care and of ministers' inaction in dealing with the escalating care crisis.

"Over 400,000 fewer people are now getting publicly-funded care than in 2010 and almost one in five care facilities services receive the worst quality ratings."

In October MPs warned that the Government still lacked an effective overall strategy to integrate the health and social care sectors, while financial pressures on local authorities mean there is "no realistic prospect of progress".

The country's ageing population has led to a widespread consensus that integration and joint working is the right way forward for the health and social care systems, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) noted in a report.

In his Budget at the end of that month Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £650 million for social care funding in 2019.

The Chancellor said he would make the additional grant funding available for English local authorities for 2019/20, on top of an additional £240 million previously announced to help the struggling sector cope with winter pressures.

A Department of Health and Social care spokeswoman said on Tuesday: "We are determined to make social care sustainable for the future.

"We have set out our principles for social care reform and will publish our proposals in a green paper later this year."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Oxfordshire County Council.