Local councils call for radical reform of elderly and disabled care

The Local Government Association has written a letter to the three main political parties calling for radical reform in elderly and disabled care.


Sir Merrick Cockell, the chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents nearly 400 councils in England and Wales, said in his letter:“Councils across the political divide are united in calling on Government to work with us to truly undertake radical reform and ensure the way we offer support to older and disabled people is fairer, simpler and fit for purpose.

“We can't dodge the fact that the cost of social care already takes up more than 40 per cent of council budgets.”

He added: “Yet councils, who are already facing an estimated £1bn reduction in social care budgets, will see almost £2bn a year added to the annual cost of care by 2015, because of our ageing population.”

Sir Merrick is concerned that failure to tackle the funding in the long awaited government White Paper could mean a “bleak outlook with services like road maintenance, parks, leisure centres and public toilets becoming increasingly limited as councils have to divert more and more money to making sure vulnerable people are cared for”.

He said: “We are clear that any such loss of momentum on exactly how care is funded is dangerous. First it will exacerbate the problems of an already overstretched care system. Second, and as a consequence, it will increasingly limit the availability of valuable local discretionary services as resources are drawn away to plug the gap in care funding.

"And third, it will fundamentally threaten the broad consensus that has built up around the Dilnot proposals from all quarters. The potential damage caused by any one of these dangers, let alone all three, could set the care reform debate back years,” he said. He wants the Government to commit to capping the amount people will have to pay for their elderly care and working to ensure it is successfully implemented."

His letter called the Dilnot proposal an expensive but worthy investment and said “we recognise that Dilnot comes with a price tag which, in the current economic climate, is challenging. But across the political spectrum at the LGA, we believe it is a cost worth paying. That is why we are working on an offer to the Government that will set out what local government can do to make Dilnot affordable, workable and well understood by those who would determine its success at a local level.”

Liz Kendall MP, Labour's Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, called the LGA “absolutely right to say we cannot afford to delay vital decisions about how we fund a decent system of care for older and disabled people".

She added: “The crisis in care is urgent; the system has reached breaking point and we need action now.

"Labour has warmly welcomed the proposals from the Dilnot Commission. We called for the on-going cross-party talks on the future funding of social care and want to see legislation in this parliament."

Mark Ellerby, managing director of Bupa Care Services, one of the largest care home providers in the country also applauded Sir Merrick’s comments and said: “Council chiefs are right to call on political parties to work together to plug the funding shortfall facing the social care sector. If the Government does not allocate additional money alongside the upcoming White Paper next month, thousands of frail and elderly people will be left isolated in their own homes or falling into NHS hospital beds at the point of crisis.

"The Government must prioritise the needs of elderly people who have no means to pay for their care in old age.”

Last year an official commission chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot recommended setting a cap of £35,000 on payments for care over a lifetime.

The Dilnot Commission also proposed raising the assets threshold above which the elderly do not receive help with social care costs from £23,250 to £100,000.

Ministers originally suggested that a White Paper detailing reforms of the care system would be published last December. This was later pushed back to April. There are now rumours it could be published on 14 June.

Paul Burstow, the care services minister, said: “We will publish our White Paper on care and support shortly and are working hard to secure cross-party agreement to find a sustainable long-term solution on social care funding.”