Hunt urged to plug £2.5bn social care funding gap

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Public Finance

Campaigners have called on Jeremy Hunt to address an estimated social care funding gap of £2.5bn with the forthcoming social care green paper, Public Finance reports.

Hunt was given a wider remit in the prime minister Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle yesterday, taking on the title of secretary of state for health and social care.

A spokesperson for the newly named Department of Health and Social Care confirmed it will take on responsibility for the social care green paper, a strategy for care services for older people, which is expected to be published in the summer.

There are as yet no details on how funding arrangements will work between the DHSC and upper-tier local authorities, which deliver social care.

The department formerly known as the Communities and Local Government, which was renamed the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the reshuffle yesterday, is responsible for local government funding.

The former Department of Health had joint responsibility for social care policy, but plans for the green paper were announced in November by then Cabinet Office minister Damian Green.

A number of organisations, including the County Councils Network, have warned that social care funding will face a £2.5bn gap by 2019-20, despite a £2bn investment over three years announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in the Spring Budget last year.

CCN spokesman Colin Noble said social care had been given the ministerial recognition it deserved, but warned that councils were facing the largest financial pressures within social care.

He added: “To that end, CCN has argued for a more holistic approach to the green paper, one which brings prevention into focus alongside necessary reform to funding social care.

“Local government must be at the heart of leading reform across both health and social care, and we intend to work with ministers to shape solutions ahead of this summer.”

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Glen Garrod, vice president of the Association for the Directors of Adult Social Services, said the move to integrate health and social care was an “essential first step”.

He added:  “We hope the secretary of state will see social care as crucial in its own right, and not just viewed through the prism of what it can do for healthcare.

“Social care is responsible for over 1.4 million jobs, and supports over 1 million of our most vulnerable adults.

“With a funding gap of over £2bn, this will be one of the most essential tasks for the new department to get to grips with in making sure that a long-term, sustainable funding solution is provided to address this.”

He said the upcoming green paper on social care was an ”ideal opportunity” to do so.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We will have to see the detail of what is meant by the new title but we have consistently argued that health and social care are mutually dependent and that they need to be considered together at both national and local level.

“To that extent this looks like a good move.”

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