Last week, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, announced that no extra money should be given to the NHS when councils have greater need of cash for social care.

The head of Britain’s health service was referring to the ongoing crisis in funding for social care.

Whilst the NHS enjoys guaranteed central Government funding, and the popular support of much of the country, many people are not aware of exactly what social care is, or that it is often deemed a poor relation to health care: poorly funded at local level by local authorities.

Care for vulnerable elderly and disabled people plays second fiddle to health care on the NHS, but the continued underfunding of social care leads to worsening health for elderly and disabled people. This, in turn, puts additional strain on NHS services.

Or, as Simon Stevens put it: “Councils have faced a 40 per cent cut in budgets for caring for frail older people at home, with 150,000 fewer people now getting help compared with five years ago. Hospitals have complained that many of them are ending up in A&E because their conditions have been allowed to worsen, while beds are blocked because there is nobody to help them at home.”

United Response has been campaigning on this issue for several years, as the funding gap to care for some of Britain’s most vulnerable people has widened.

Devolving responsibility

Traditionally the Government has paid a Revenue Support Grant which is core central government funding for councils to pay for day-to-day services, including social care. But in 2011, the Government began to change the way that local authorities are funded.

Rather than giving local authorities money from central government, Chancellor George Osborne wants councils to raise their own funds. The Government argues that allowing local authorities to keep money raised from business rates, and also giving them powers to raise a council tax precept specifically for adult social care, will make them self-sufficient. United Response is concerned that the Government is devolving responsibility for funding of social care to councils, whilst leaving them with insufficient options to make up revenue at local level.

A widening gap

Predictions from Nuffield Trust, The Health Foundation and the King’s Fund estimate that even with these additional measures, the social care funding gap is likely to be somewhere between £2.8 billion and £3.5 billion by the end of the parliament in 2020.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester last week, Mr Stevens said: “The polite way I’ve described it is that the social care funding piece is ‘unfinished business.’ I think it is obvious that there is going to be a widening gap between need and funding over the course of the next three years . . . the national awareness of that has moved from denial to acknowledgement and now we’ve got to move from acknowledgement to solution.”

United Response welcomes the head of the NHS’s intervention on the vital issue of social care funding.

In last November’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government committed to integration of health and social care by 2020.

But United Response believes that the accompanying shift towards a social care system based on locally-raised revenue, rather than the guaranteed central Government funding which the NHS receives, can only widen the huge disparity between health and social care.

The Government’s new proposals for social care funding are reliant on local levels of property values and economic activity. Councils in poorer areas will raise far less money from the council tax precept and from business rates than richer authorities.

Furthermore, although local authorities will have to spend the whole of the precept on adult care, there is nothing to prevent them from reducing the rest of their social care spend. Some authorities could claim an efficiency saving in the rest of their social care budget, so making it extremely difficult to track what the money has actually been spent on.

Campaign for proper funding

United Response reiterates Simon Steven’s words last week, that, “there is a strong argument that, were extra funding to be available, frankly we should be arguing that it should be going to social care.”

We continue to campaign for the proper funding of social care as an individual organisation, and with our partners in the Care and Support Alliance, and Learning Disability Voices.

For our latest activity on social care, follow our tweets and Facebook posts on social media, and look out for further blogs.