Cllr Izzi Seccombe is Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board.
The Government’s recent decision to delay its own adult social care green paper is disappointing and frustrating.
Local government – so often the pragmatic front-runner on difficult agendas and at the forefront of developing solutions to difficult issues on a cross-party basis – has seized the initiative.
We have published our own green paper for social care and wellbeing to stimulate a truly nationwide debate about how best to fund the care we want to see in all our communities up and down the country for adults of all ages, and how our wider care and health system can be better geared towards supporting and improving people’s wellbeing.
This is our chance to put social care and wellbeing right at the very heart of the Government’s thinking and influence not just their green paper, but also the Budget, the NHS Plan and the Spending Review.
The Local Government Association, like many of our partners in the social care sector, has worked hard to ensure that the question of how to fund adult social care for the long-term has had the time in the national spotlight that it deserves. But we have still not secured the action we urgently need.
The continued absence of a sustainable, long-term solution has brought care and support to breaking point and created a deeply uncertain future outlook for people who use social care services now, and the growing number of people who will need the service in the years to come.
National governments, past and present, have tended to put political prospects ahead of difficult but necessary decision-making. When they have put forward proposals, national opposition parties have sought to discredit them instead of trying to find common ground.
The national media has latched onto this disharmony, further fuelling the politicisation of the question of social care funding. The preoccupation of successive governments with the state of our hospitals has impacted on the use of new money for social care.
The result is at least two decades in which the question of how to fund social care for the long-term has never enjoyed more than a few brief periods in the national spotlight. All the while, the concerns and experiences of the people who matter most – those who need care and support and their families – have struggled to get the attention they deserve.
More widely, the public has largely remained detached from the debate, finding it difficult to engage with a set of questions and issues that have so many conflicting viewpoints. Most people still do not have a good sense of why social care matters, how it works and how it is funded.
Against this backdrop, the approach of governments past and present in dealing with mounting pressures in social care has been to limp along with piecemeal measures from one year to the next.
We estimate adult social care faces a funding gap of £3.5 billion by 2025. The need to resolve the long-term future of care and support is now urgent. It is time to confront the hard choices, be honest about the options and make some clear decisions.
Please find our more and take part in our consultation at www.futureofadultsocialcare.co.uk