On the eve of last November’s Autumn Statement, social care sector leaders were confident that something would be offered to help the intense crisis facing social care. Those hopes were dashed. All that was offered were a few drops in the ocean of what is needed: the opportunity to raise the council tax precept, which won’t generate anywhere near enough money, and will widen the gap between rich and poor areas.
There are hopes that this week’s Budget will be different. Something more will be forthcoming for social care - although Philip Hammond on the Andrew Marr show at the weekend gave a clear message that increased public service spending is not on the agenda.
The problems facing the care sector are manifold: they need a quick injection of cash so that councils can help the people who need help now, and get people out of bursting hospital wards. But more profoundly, someone needs a vision for how to get out of this crisis in the longer term.
In the last 20 years, four independent reviews of long-term care (Sutherland, Wanless, Barker, Dilnot) have looked at this and failed to get traction from their sensible proposals. Another commission can’t be the answer. It was heartening to read in last week’s Times that so-called Death Taxes are back on the agenda – reclaiming money for care costs from people’s estates when they die. There are lots of things wrong with this (particularly if it is not done in a redistributive way), but if even a Conservative Government is starting to think the unthinkable on social care (taxing inheritance), perhaps there is a glimmer of hope of some real new money for a sector that desperately needs it.