Fair shares for all
By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON
So now we know: Whitehall’s Christmas gift to local authorities is another poisoned chalice, concocted to drag adult care services back from the brink. This latest bid to pick the lock of the social care “crisis” is a here-today-gone-tomorrow tweak in the council tax precept that will fall disproportionately on those least able to pay. Here’s hoping councils will insist providers respond in kind. It will only take an extra quid: a quid pro quo, that is.
In the name of fairness, top up amounts – and in homes with mixed sources of income, cross-subsidies from self-funders – should be reduced to match whatever price increases, however modest, actually emerge from a threadbare, short-term fix. And, please, no weasel-worded attempts to wriggle out of it.
With the Care Act yet to be implemented in full, councils will only be able to “encourage” this sort of action from homes that accommodate publicly-funded residents. So, it looks like a significant cohort of self-funders will be abandoned. Even as the Government wrings its hands it is washing them of responsibility for these people, leaving many of them facing up to fees that would make your nose bleed.
There are those who argue that fees pitched at 40% over the odds – benchmarks that, according to some experts, are themselves unjustifiably inflated – are not exploitation, but the necessary cost of securing private investment. They need to examine their consciences.
A repeat of Ted Heath’s unsuccessful flirtation with price controls by the current Tory administration is unimaginable. Until, that is, the message about governing in the interests of all – the one that was trailed behind a pig spotted flying over Downing Street last summer – is taken into consideration.
Bearing that in mind, together with the newfound realisation that “something must be done”, could ministers feel emboldened to draw a boundary in care service pricing between public good and private gain – perhaps as part of the promised “sustainable system of social care for the future”?
I doubt that home owners will be extended the latitude that has been granted to energy suppliers: sorting things out for themselves.
There’s one more possibility: the PM’s pointed observation that “[the social care problem] is not just about money; it is about delivery” suggests that the reintroduction of independent scrutiny of local authority commissioning could be on the cards. For providers, it would be a welcome development; for councils, a top up of the poisoned chalice.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.