When I opened our revised council tax bill for 2017/18 for the London Borough of Wandsworth this weekend, the reality of the much talked about ‘council tax hikes to pay for social care’ really hit home.
Council tax bills for 2017/18 have risen by their largest amount in a decade to pay for the increasing cost of social care. Theresa May gave permission for councils to bump up council tax bills by an extra 3% above and beyond the standard increase limit of 2% – that’s a 5% increase in total for some UK councils. The rise in council tax is thought to be linked to that fact that councils have been pushed perilously close to the financial edge after years of funding reductions alongside the increasing demand for services particularly social care.
Not only are councils raising tax bills, the lack of money they have available to pay for social care is prompting care providers to end council contracts, because some providers can no longer afford to deliver the required care services for the amount they are being paid. According to research carried out for Panorama by Opus Restructuring and Company Watch, 69 home care companies have closed in the last three months across 95 councils and one in four of the UK’s 2,500 home care companies is at risk of insolvency.
This figure for the number of cancelled contracts comes from a Freedom of Information request, which was responded to by 197 of 212 UK councils. The Local Government Association (LGA) suggests it is the result of “historic under-funding,” the National Living Wage and an ageing population.
There is also an anticipated funding gap, as estimated by The Local Government Association (LGA) of £2.6bn across England and Wales by 2020, and in order to cope with growing demand of an ageing population, it has been estimated that at least two million more carers will be needed by 2025 in England alone.
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget has given an additional £2bn towards social care over the next three years, with the first part, £1bn available in 2017/18, although this is thought to be a drop in the ocean when compared to the actual sum of money required long term to deliver the much needed radical reforms.
Without genuinely new government funding for social care, vulnerable people face an ever uncertain future where they might no longer receive the dignified care and support they deserve. This is not only worse for our loved ones but will also heap further pressure and wasted expense on the NHS. With the reduction in choice due to care providers closing, an increasing pressure on Local Authorities to meet both minimum wage and social care demand increases, access to genuine, independent, and relevant guidance for care has never been more relevant than it is now.
Being empowered by having the right information at the right time is absolutely key to securing the best and most appropriate care for a loved one.