In our initial response to the Social Care White Paper which we issued the day after the White Paper was published, the Rural Services Network welcomed the ambition of the Government in the Social Care White Paper ‘People at the Heart of Care’. In particular we agreed with the Social Care Minister Gillian Keegan who stated in her speech, “We cannot be serious about Levelling Up unless we are also serious about social care”.
However, we expressed concern about whether the Government will be able to deliver on their promises and fix the broken system.
The White Paper is based on 3 core principles,
"These are bold promises from the Government and recent research by the Rural Services Network and the County Council Network, The State of Care in County and Rural Areas, highlighted particular challenges for rural and county areas which would need to be specifically addressed in order to achieve these core principles.
These challenges are:
- Resource: Government funded support for adult social care service costs is significantly lower in county and rural areas
- Workforce: The higher average age alongside ageing population projections within county and rural areas places a high burden on these local authorities
- Self-Funders: The balance of adults self-funding their care is higher in rural areas and likely to be more sensitive to reforms made to the funding system
- Care Homes: The proportion of residential care homes situated in rural locations is higher than in metropolitan areas, often encouraging service user inflow to counties
- Sparsity: Geographical challenges in providing adult social care in large and remote rural areas, particularly the time and costs involved in delivering personal care over large distances
Local Authorities in rural areas are suffering from years of historic underfunding compared to urban areas. They will be looking for financial reform to bridge the funding gap for Social Care budgets to ensure that they can meet growing demands on the service and current levels of unmet need. During the Social Care Reform Statement in Parliament on 1st December, Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee highlighted his concerns over the lack of solutions to address the funding to local authorities for their core responsibilities and an ‘end to the workforce crisis’.
The announcements in relation to investment in a range of supported housing options, training for the social care workforce, and a practical support service to make changes in people’s homes so that they remain independent are all welcome, but need exploring in more detail to see how they will be rolled out in rural areas”
In this further paper we comment on some of the funding issues for local government. In doing so we draw on some comments from Pixel Financial Management, the RSN’s Local Government Finance Consultants. These comments are general and not rural specific.
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