Quality care poses a financial challenge

I have just received my Autumn 2014 copy of 'Your Somerset' and WOW! - who'd want the job of trying to balance the County Council's budget?

The council stated in the article that it needs to reduce projected spending by about £30m.

That's relevant to 'Care Matters' because by my reckoning about £184m (69%) of the spending relates directly to supporting people with care needs, and another £21.9m (8%) relates to them indirectly.

If you watch the news you'll be aware that the system of care provision in this country is under pressure. The Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Andrea Sutcliffe, stated ahead of announcing the Care Quality Commission's new monitoring regime last week:

"There is too much awful care that is actually happening and calling time on poor care is something that we have got to do."

I am sure we all applaud that sentiment. We are about to see a huge change in the provision of adult social care when the Care Act 2014 comes into force on 1st April next year.

That Act is ambitious, and in our features in January and February next year we will begin to explore those changes.

However, one thing we can be sure of is that the higher quality and quantity of support that the Act promises will cost more than we spend at the moment.

In their response to the draft Regulations and Guidance that will introduce the Act's provisions, the Local Government Association were very supportive of the aims but gave some strong commentary on the financial limitations they are trying to deal with.

They stated:

"The issue of system funding has perhaps been over-simplified, with concerns about resources regularly being countered with the position that Government has provided adequate funding for social care and its attendant reforms. We believe that an exchange on this level potentially misses a bigger and more fundamental question about the level of priority we are prepared to ascribe to care and support as a society. Total spending on adult social care and support accounts for just two per cent of total public expenditure and we are keen to have a national debate on whether that is a proportion we are willing to accept for supporting the wellbeing and independence of working age disabled adults and older people."

"The Department [of Health] are aware of this [financial] context and the sector’s continued efforts to raise awareness of it. However, over-familiarity with the figures must not lead to desensitisation to their magnitude, and the impact on the people who need care and support. The clear reality is that 2014/15 is already extremely difficult and 2015/16 will be a crunch year, with the largest real-terms reductions in funding yet; reductions of over 12 per cent to funding levels that have already been reduced by a third in the four years to 2014/15. The impact of reductions on this scale will include cuts to frontline services and, in some cases, the cessation of services altogether."

Somerset County Council are asking us to give our opinions on the priorities that they should be working to next year and beyond by visiting their website or writing to them at County Hall.

It is only by engaging in the debate that we, as users of the services, can hope to shape the care we think our friends and loved ones deserve.

In the meantime if you or someone you know is adversely affected by these budget constraints please do get in touch - maybe we'll be able to help.

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