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Government funding and the home care industry – what does it all mean?

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You may have noticed in the news recently that concerns are being raised over the current state of providing home care to many residents across the country. With more and more older patients in need of care after a stay in hospital, the nation is seeing significant strains on various resources.

A lack of government funding for the domiciliary care industry has led to shortage of home care workers across the country. In various cases, financial woes have resulted in home care providers actually having to hand back care contracts to local councils, while others have even struggled to recruit more care staff altogether.

Earlier this month, the BBC’s Panorama programme investigated the plight of several individuals affected by the current struggles of social care in the UK. The report titled “Britain’s Home-Care Crisis” highlighted current stresses on the care system by following elderly patients unable to find suitable home care packages. As a result, they’ve occupied NHS beds for longer than necessary, meaning the struggles of social care have a significant knock-on effect on the NHS.

Urgent need for funding

In recent months, the government has faced mounting pressure from council leaders, who have warned that the social care system is on the brink of collapse. To help free NHS beds, local authorities have highlighted that an immediate cash injection would be necessary to help provide quality home care for elderly residents following hospital stays.

Towards the end of last year, ministers considered various ways to provide more money for the social care sector, including giving councils the go-ahead to make increases to council tax. This led to planned referendums on council tax rises in Liverpool and Surrey, both of which were ultimately abandoned.

A group of cross-party MPs calling for an urgent review into how social care is funded issued a statement ahead of the Spring Budget, urging the government to make better efforts to plug the financial gap. It advised that the chancellor should use £1.5 billion of the improved Better Care Fund over 2017-18 to help address immediate issues facing adult social care.

The committee, chaired by Labour MP Clive Betts, has also noted that it should be necessary for the National Audit Office to increase its efforts to identify how much funding may be needed in this sector over future years. Mr Betts also stated:

“While short-term action is vital, there are funding, structural, and other problems facing the social care sector in the medium and long term which we shall be addressing in our final report published next month.”

Billions for social care

As part of the government’s Spring Budget, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that an extra £2 billion would be made available to councils across the country over the next three years, with half of that amount coming in the first year. This contribution will sit alongside ongoing funding from the Better Care Fund, which will continue as previously planned.

While this means the BCF will essentially drip-feed smaller amounts of funding to councils over the coming years, councils will be able to benefit from additional funds right away.

Mr Hammond said that by providing £1 billion of funding for social care this financial year, councils will be able to “act now” to take on more care packages and support care providers, helping to “relieve pressures on the NHS.” He is also committed to publishing a green paper later on this year, highlighting how the government will propose to deal with social care in the long-term future.

Will the extra funding really help?

Despite the large contribution, the money announced in this Budget falls short of filling the gap in social care spending. This has led to the announcement being met with a mixed reaction, with some criticising the move as a “temporary measure” which doesn’t necessarily focus on the wider problems of the care sector.

All in all, while the government may need to further address the full extent of the industry, it’s certainly beneficial that councils will see a boost in the government’s approach to funding over the coming years. This in turn will have an effect on the contracts handed to home care providers like SureCare, giving access to the appropriate resources to provide quality care for all.