The Government must take responsibility for the elderly

Councils will now be able to charge households up to 4 per cent extra council tax with the additional funds to be spent only on social care - but there won't be much to show for it

Tuesday 23 February 2016 01:03
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As a result of an ageing population, rising longevity and a growing number of people living with serious health conditions such as dementia, demand for care is rising
As a result of an ageing population, rising longevity and a growing number of people living with serious health conditions such as dementia, demand for care is rising

Under the guise of its commitment to local democracy, the Government is abdicating its national responsibilities. No single issue could be more critical to the health and well-being of a nation than the care and support of its older people. But now the matter is being left in the hands of under-funded local councils, already buckling under cuts to their income, and they are unable to cope.

As a result of an ageing population, rising longevity and a growing number of people living with serious health conditions such as dementia, demand for care is rising. Provision is not meeting that growing need.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Service, of the 1.8 million people whose requests for care and support were assessed by English councils in 2014-15, 59 per cent received no direct services. This is a situation that must be tackled.

In November’s Spending Review, the Chancellor announced a “social care precept” to be added to council tax bills. It allowed councils to charge households up to 2 per cent extra, with the additional funds to be spent only on social care. Now a survey of councils has revealed that nine out of 10 will levy the charge – on top of the additional 2 per cent annual rise that all local authorities are free to implement – so the vast majority of UK households should now anticipate a 4 per cent council tax rise this year.

But, when it comes to social care, there will be little to show for it. The vast majority of the extra funding the precept will raise, a combined £372m, will be spent covering the cost of introducing the Government’s national living wage to the care sector. That is a welcome policy, in itself, but the precept intended to help tackle the care crisis will in fact be siphoned off, leaving little for care.

Meanwhile, in some areas – Ealing, Hammersmith and Stoke-on-Trent, for example – the social care precept will not be charged at all. The care of our nation’s sick, old and disabled should not be a political game; tough decisions like these should not be passed down to ill-equipped and cash-strapped local representatives.

The social care precept is a sticking plaster that leaves the wound still exposed; a cure for the illness that caused it has yet to be found.

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