Budget: Chancellor unveils £2bn boost for social care

SOCIAL CARE will get an extra £2bn over the next three years, with £1bn for 2017-18, to help councils ease pressure on services, Philip Hammond has announced.

In his first Spring Budget, the Chancellor said social care services are looking after over a million people and the system is "clearly under pressure", which in turn is adding to the strain on the NHS.

Between August 2010 and December 2016, delayed discharges from hospital because of a lack of home care increased by 230 per cent, according to the Care & support Alliance.

The £2bn in additional grant funding will allow councils to "act now to commission new care packages" to ensure patients can be discharged from hospital when they are ready and people have care available in their homes, the Chancellor said.

He added that just 24 local authorities currently account for over half of delayed discharges. Alongside the extra funding, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and local government secretary Sajid Javid will announce measures shortly to identify and support councils that are struggling and to improve joined-up working with the NHS.

"But the long-term challenges of sustainably funding care in older age requires a strategic approach," Hammond said.

"The Government will set out its thinking on the options for the future financing of social care in a Green Paper later this year."

The Chancellor, however, ruled out a so-called "death tax" on estates to pay for care.

Responding to the announcement, Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities & Local Government Committee, said the extra £1bn for 2017-18 is welcome but "falls well short" of the £1.5bn the committee recommended to plug the funding gap and relieve immediate pressures on services.

A pre-Budget report from the committee noted estimates of the social care funding gap range from £1.3bn to £1.9bn for 2017-18 and £1.1bn to £2.6bn in 2019-20.

Betts also called on the Government to provide "explicit confirmation" that the funding is new money.

"The announcement of a Green Paper on social care in the long term is welcome but to provide an effective solution to the challenges for our social care system, this should be part of an urgent review, undertaken on a cross-party basis," he said. 

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of think tank the Local Government Information Unit, said: "The good news is that the Government has listened to the local government sector and made more money available for social care. It's not nearly enough, of course, so the Government is right that this is a short term measure and that we need more fundamental reform of care funding and delivery. 

"The bad news is that the focus of this additional money makes that reform harder.

"Social care is not just about freeing up hospital beds; it's about managing the overall wellbeing of the people who live in a place. That connects with health care but also with housing, keeping people healthy, management of public space and local economies. That's why social care can only be delivered by local bodies, not by national agencies.

"So we need to fund local government to deliver social care but then we need to trust it to spend the money locally across the system in the ways that work best for that area. Micromanagement of how the money is spent will be expensive, ineffective and a step in the wrong direction."