By Joel Charles, Director of Government Relations and Impact, Future Care Capital
Winter has arrived. Health and social care professionals plan all year round for the impact of winter pressures on the NHS and the knock-on challenges of ensuring care packages are in place to meet the needs of specific groups of older patients before they can leave hospital. The government announced an additional £650 million in the Budget for adult social care, this funding followed the £240 million allocated in October which was aimed specifically at helping local authorities to reduce pressures on the NHS and wider provision. Although more money for adult social care should be welcomed, it is nowhere near the amount of money required to bridge the gap. Local authorities face a £3.5 billion social care funding gap by 2025. Tackling winter pressures and the debate about funding are both important issues, but only by focusing more broadly on addressing how our complex health and care ecosystem must change to meet current and future needs will the government truly be able to deliver long-term sustainability.
There needs to be a shift in emphasis and at Future Care Capital we are working to encourage a national debate about how to do just that. We are a charity committed to using evidence-based insight and research to advocate practical health and adult social care policy ideas. In September we published, Facilitating Care Insight to Develop Caring Economies, a research report exploring the risks and opportunities different parts of the country face in planning and managing adult social care provision. Our report calls on the government to include a funding impact assessment with the forthcoming green paper, improve planning and data collections methods on the ground and acknowledge local differences to avoid perpetuating an outdated view of adult social care provision.
The adult social care Green Paper must signal a new positive direction. It should champion independent living in later life by investing in pre-care measures that ensure our homes and communities are designed for age and mobility so that more people are able to take care of themselves and their families at home for longer. This will only happen once health and adult social care policy are no longer viewed in isolation. Some progress was made nationally by establishing the Department of Health and Social Care. Alongside the unification of health and social care provision, more strategic efforts are needed to value our ageing population, but this is no easy task.
To deliver a more positive vision, there needs to be a culture change, which embeds across society an understanding that care is a responsibility we all share. One potential way to realise this ambition is to establish a Care Covenant or renewed settlement involving everyone in our society as a mechanism for change. This will only be achieved if we get the basics right first. Policymakers at all levels need to focus more resources on long-term planning so that we anticipate demographic challenges earlier and ensure our local communities are better able to respond to the needs of all generations.