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Health and social Care levy not a panacea but a step forward

Few would argue with the aim of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who said: “Our reforms will end the cruel lottery of spiralling and unpredictable care costs once and for all and bring the NHS and social care closer together.

Leaders of social care organisation have long campaigned for a Government approach to the funding of social care. History tells us the issue was put on the back burner by successive Governments for more than 2 decades. So should we not welcome the new levy as a step forward.

Criticism of the health and social care levy

Commenting on the Levy’s introduction, The Independent Care Group (ICG) warned social care’s share of funding would not come through soon enough to save some providers.

ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “Reports suggest social care won’t see much of this new funding for some years when many providers need it right now.

“A lack of investment, the crippling cost of living rises, the pandemic and the slow recovery of care take-up and occupancy levels are combining to create a perfect storm and some care and nursing homes, and homecare providers will not survive it. Then the vital role social care and its staff perform, alongside NHS care, will be under severe threat.

There is a great deal of concern about how the funding will be divided up. Given the backlog of NHS operations, it is unlikely that meaningful funding for social care will be available until the NHS has caught up with the operations crises.

While welcoming the Levy, Mike said it must be divided fairly, with social care getting what it needs, “urgently”.

“We cannot have a strong and viable NHS system without a strong and viable social care sector, and at the moment that isn’t being supported.”

“The Prime Minister is right to say that we can’t fix hospital waiting lists without fixing social care – but he is wrong if he thinks he is fixing social care through the measures announced so far. He is a long, long way from it.

“And the Chancellor saying the Government will not shy away from difficult decisions to fix social care – I would say that the Government is doing exactly that, tinkering at the edges and failing to give the sector the root and branch reform and better funding it needs to provide a proper service and to recognise, respect and reward its staff properly.”

Benefits of the levy to social care

Reports suggest that just £5.4bn of the fund will go to social care over the next three years, with much of that taken up by implementing a fair cost of care initiative and paying for the £86,000 cap on care costs.

People working in adult social care in England will benefit from at least £500m to improve recruitment, retention, progression and staff well-being.

Of the £5.4bn funding allocated to social care, £1.36bn will help local authorities move towards paying a fair cost of care, with £2.2bn allocated to introducing a £86,000 cap on care costs from October 2023.

NHS demands for funding

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said:

“Any extra investment in the NHS will always be welcomed. But we need to place this funding increase in its proper context.

“In the 2010s the NHS went through the longest and deepest financial squeeze in its history. That meant growing workforce shortages, under investment in a deteriorating NHS estate and NHS capacity failing to keep up with demand.

“When it was announced, this funding increase only took NHS annual funding rises back to their long term average. But even that is now being eroded by the impact of inflation; the need to fund ongoing COVID-19 costs, including £330m for testing; and increased efficiency demands. And NHS staff will need an appropriate pay rise this year to cope with the increases in cost of living.

Summary

The Government received severe criticism about the introduction of health and social care levy at a time when many are facing severe hardship. It is to their credit that they stuck to their guns because who would know how long the levy would be delayed in the future.

The levy is far from perfect, and it is difficult to see social care receiving a fair share in the short term. It would be hoped that we can believe the words of Boris Johnson who said. “We know this won’t be a quick fix, and we know that we can’t fix waiting lists without fixing social care, and once and for all bring the NHS and social care closer together”.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Chartered Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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