This week is the annually held Carers Week. It is a nationwide initiative aimed at raising the awareness of caring and recognising the unnoticed dedication of millions of carers throughout the UK.

A hot topic in recent weeks has been the crisis that social care is facing: the question is – can it be saved?

Last month the Conservatives ran out winners in the general election to turn the coalition government into a Conservative majority. To some this came as a bit of a shock. What it did mean, however, was that continuity amongst many ministers and many initiatives would prevail. This was certainly true for the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, who was told to continue as he left off.

Is this good news for social care and the caring community?

In Mr Hunt’s statement after his re-appointment, he said, “My biggest priority now is to transform care outside hospitals – just as we have dramatically improved the quality of care inside hospitals in the last few years. We need a step change in services offered through GP surgeries, community and social care. That is my mission, and I know it is the mission of the whole NHS too.”

So, he is undoubtedly saying the right things, as most politicians do, but if you dig a little deeper the waters become a little murkier.

The financing, or lack of it, behind Social Care

The Conservative manifesto promised to ‘join up homes, clinics and hospitals’, and lend support to the promotion of an integrated care model between social care and the NHS which is a hopeful step for the elderly as it would result in a much smoother, simpler and coherent system. Currently, the system is nothing short of shambolic. In a recent poll of more than 300 top managers and directors of NHS care bodies, a whopping 99% warned that cuts to social care are putting extra pressure on the NHS.

The funding for the NHS is a protected area, ring-fenced from cuts with the government promising to provide £8 billion a year up to 2020. However, social care does not have the privilege of being protected. During the election campaign there was no claim whatsoever as to how social care would be financed. In fact, it is more likely you’ll hear about how the government can make cuts to social care.

Since 2010 there has been a savage 31% reduction in social care funding. This year the area is facing a £1.1bn shortfall. This is where the words of the Conservatives start to unravel as they are not backed up with financial credibility. If we consider adult social care services alone over the next decade, there is a £4.3bn ‘black hole’ in funding. The demand for social care has grown by 14% because of an ageing population, however, social care budgets have been cut by 12% in cash terms. This just isn’t sustainable.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, announced a further £4.5bn worth of cuts, on top of the £13bn already planned for 2015-16. He didn’t say where these cuts would take place.

How does this impact on Carers?

A vital aspect of this severe funding shortage is ensuring that home care workers are paid the national minimum wage. Home care workers truly provide a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable members of our society, nevertheless, figures show that home care workers are amongst the lowest paid in the country. Carers now only get paid for ‘contact time’; consequently when you factor in travelling time to homes the wage of carers would be below the national minimum wage. The Conservatives did not mention anything in regards to carer pay or staffing, whereas Labour put more emphasis on home care, promising to recruit 5,000 more home care workers to create a ‘new arm of the NHS’, increasing budgets and ending the time-limited 15-minute visits.

So, can social care be saved?

Jeremy Hunt is declaring the right priorities but he needs to act on them. In his three years has Health Minister, he hasn’t done yet. The NHS and social care face the most unbalanced and challenging period in their history, however, as the population becomes older, these areas are going to need more funding and become more important. To create a more integrated care model, it is clear that these cuts cannot continue. An integrated care model will benefit all, but it needs to be invested in and taken seriously. Jeremy Hunt’s call to ‘continue where he left off’ would not benefit the care system whatsoever if it is going to change for the better. The individuals and organisations who provide care need to be put at the centre of this system to make it work.

Gorvins’ role

As a leading organisation in the local community, Gorvins cares deeply about how members of our society are treated. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate team provide an excellent, personal and unrivalled service to ensure that individuals can appropriately plan for their future and give themselves piece of mind.

For more information give us a call on 0161 930 5117.

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