New minister, new opportunities

Two smiling women

There was a new appointment in Government last week, an important one for disabled people with complex needs.

James Brokenshire became the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. We’re calling on him to ensure disabled people with complex needs have appropriate and timely arrangements for their future care in place, and to help provide the peace of mind that families need.

Describing himself as having “local government… in the blood”, Mr Brokenshire said he looked forward to working with councils to deliver quality public services and build strong integrated communities.

This Department is an important one for Sense as it has responsibility over local government, including reform, finances and adult social care.

The funding gap in adult social care

Adult social care is one of the biggest expenditures for local government, and is hugely underfunded.

It has been estimated that local government will face a funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020, according to the Local Government Association (LGA) in 2017. In addition, the LGA said a bare minimum of £1.3bn was required immediately.

This is set in a backdrop of funding reductions over the last few years. ADASS reported that between 2010/11 and 2014/15 councils in England experienced real terms adult social care budget reduction of £4.6 billion.

The funding gap is something we have found has had a very real impact on those with complex communication needs. They can struggle to access social care, and the support they want is not always available.

What happens when carers are no longer there?

As part of our When I’m Gone campaign, we found many families had concerns about insufficient funding within the health, social care and housing sectors.

41 per cent of carers we surveyed reported that navigating cuts to local services had increased the difficulty of planning for the future, and half of carers (51 per cent) had worries that future funding cuts would limit future options even further than at present.

Nearly half of families stated a belief that their council prioritised cost-cutting over providing quality care.

Six changes we’d like to see at the local level

Concerns about the availability of funding for services, and the subsequent impact on service quality means that families are reluctant to seek short and long-term support, and are left to care alone as a result.

This is why we are calling for the following changes to help provide the peace of mind families need:

  • There should be a new duty on local authorities to ensure that disabled people aged 25 and over, have long-term contingency plans in place for their housing, care and lifestyle.
  • Local authorities should provide specific and proactive support to disabled people and their families to develop long-term plans.
  • Local authorities, providers and voluntary sector organisations should do more to provide clear information on what services are available to support disabled people and their families in the short and long-term, and how to access them.
  • Local authorities and providers should work together to ensure that there are sufficient quality specialist services to meet local needs and provide choice for families.
  • Central government should ensure that local authorities are adequately funded – not just to meet immediate care needs, but to enable the delivery of new and innovative models of care.
  • More support is needed for families now to ensure that they are supported in their caring responsibilities while they are still able to provide support, by the provision of adequate support within the home, and access to short breaks.

With the highly anticipated Social Care Green Paper due to be published this Summer, we will be looking to work across government departments, including Brokenshire’s and the Department of Health and Social Care, to provide a sustainable social care system, which is able to meet the needs for all who need it.

We look forward to working with the new Secretary to make our recommendations a reality and ensure disabled people with complex needs have appropriate and timely arrangements for their future care in place.

Read more about our campaign When I’m Gone, helping families plan for the future.

Author: Rachel Marnick

Rachel is a Policy Advisor on health and social care at Sense

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