This afternoon the Care Bill will reach the final stages of its Parliamentary journey as MPs continue their scrutiny of the legislation. 

The Bill has widely been acknowledged as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape care and will make huge changes – most of which are very positive.  It begins by emphasising that people’s wellbeing must be at the heart of their care and support and places much more importance on the value of preventative care, both of which should help to create a care service which is designed around people.

As it has progressed through Parliament, the Government has made significant amendments to the Bill, reflecting the concerns and hard work of the Care and Support Alliance, of which United Response is a member.  The first of these was the introduction of a right to advocacy support for people who need help navigating the social care system and making their wishes known.  More recently, the Government introduced a clause which will mean that people are able to appeal decisions made about their care and support, which was a significant omission in the original legislation.

However, while the Care Bill does much to modernise the current system of care and support, it does nothing to alleviate the funding crisis facing social care.  Just last week, Age UK published a study showing that since 2010 168,000 older people have lost essential support which helps them to carry out basic tasks such as eating, washing and getting dressed.  The issue isn’t recent, as their research shows that 335,000 older people have lost care and support since 2005/06 due to changes in eligibility criteria and cuts to social care funding.  Studies from  PSSRU and the Care and Support Alliance have shown a similar drop in the number of disabled and older people receiving care and support; 347,000 since 2008.

Without further action from the Government, there is a real risk that the aspirations of the Care Bill will be unfulfilled and that the current funding crisis will continue.  Local authorities and charities alike are worried that existing pressures on local authority budgets - which have already been reduced by £2.68 billion - will be exacerbated by paying for the costs of implementing the Care Bill.  While the Government has already announced a £3.8 billion fund, the Better Care Fund, to support joint working between health and social care, its impact will be far less than originally hoped as part of the funding will be used to pay for the implementation costs of the Care Bill.  There is a real fear that the legislation could end up being funded by money intended for service provision.

Next week the Chancellor George Osborne will set out his final budget for this Parliament, where he has the opportunity to ensure that the Government’s ambitions for providing excellent care and support are fulfilled.  Without further commitments from the Government to adequately fund social care, the ambitions of the Care Bill are likely to go unrealised and an opportunity for the Government to leave a legacy of better care and support will be missed.  In the coming months we will continue to campaign with the Care and Support Alliance to ensure that this chance is not lost and the Bill’s aspirations are achieved.

Rachel Bowen, Campaigns Officer