Autumn Statement

Local authority funding - the reality - by Paul Wilkins

Following the recent release of the Autumn Statement 2016, Paul Wilkins, Occupational Therapist and Co-founder of health and social care decision support tool company Desuto, comments on why investing in health and social care is more difficult than ever; and the steps that the government must take to avoid creating a black hole in service provision:

“A free NHS is a passion for many of the electorate and this has been reflected in successive governments’ focus on stressing their support for the health service. NHS budgets will always be keenly scrutinised by MPs for fear of losing favour with their constituents. The unfortunate reality is that other areas, such as local authority funding, are often left to face the brunt of the cuts.

 When it comes to social care, local authorities have done their best to protect it from the worst of the cuts. With the failure to address additional funding for social care in the Autumn Statement, it is clear that the ongoing squeeze from central government is going to make protection impossible in the long-term. Even with a push to raise more funds from residents via Council Tax levy, the gulf between the amount of money available to local authorities and the rising costs of caring for an ageing population continues to grow. As a result, the availability of community and residential care providers who are prepared to accept Local Authority rates is now dwindling.

The long-term impact of budget reductions, staff shortages and workload pressures is a decline in the standards of care and the creation of a black hole in terms of its provision. This leads to a vicious circle – with a negative impact on both the population and the government’s purse strings. Firstly, we see a rise in hospital admissions. When treatment is finished, the vulnerable are left with little to no support, resulting in re-admission and delayed discharges.

At the same time, while the NHS is usually held to account through regular inspections, checks on social care provision are less stringent, meaning that we risk many failing providers not being identified until it is too late.”