Monday, 30 March 2015

Councils should be allowed to fund care rather than forced to pay for fussbucketry


The LGA has been asking MPs about social care funding. This is important because, even if we put an end to the myth of 'selling the family home' (it's usually one from which the family has long departed), social care budgets are the most pressured in local government. Mostly because we're unhelpfully living longer and because the NHS has decided that folk recover better if you get them out of hospital as swiftly as possible.

The boss of the LGA, Cllr David Sparks waves the shroud:

'Adult social care is in crisis. We need a care system that is fit for the 21st century. It's not enough for consecutive governments to keep papering over the cracks with short term fixes.

'We urgently need a longer-term solution that puts social care on a sustainable footing. Failure to do so will deprive our elderly of the care they deserve, create additional pressure on the NHS and push other local services over the edge.'

And the solution that the LGA proposes is to hypothecate - to 'ringfence' - social care budgets. Essentially to take away from councillors the ability to make choices about a very significant part of the council budget. This is because, we're told, there will be a £4.3 billion "black hole" needing to be filled by 2020.

Now firstly I don't see how ringfencing will make a jot of difference. It's not like the size of the pot miraculously gets bigger if you stop councillors from having a say in its determination. What's needed is for local councillors to be given more rather than less budgetary power - and this means removing the ringfence (imposed to appease the NHS) from public health budgets.

Currently over half of public health spending goes on what, for want of a better term, is essentially nannying fussbucketry. Nice to do if you've loads of cash sloshing around but since councils haven't it's pretty galling for there to be all this money spent on smoking cessation campaigns, free slimming classes and campaigns against booze, fizzy drinks and burger bars. Currently this amounts to somewhere between £1 and £2 billion per year across England - a pretty good start towards the far more useful task of looking after the old, sick and disabled.

I'd also scrap Public Health England with its responsibilities for immunisation programmes and response to health emergencies going back to the NHS and the remainder of its money - the fussbucketry funds sucked up by sockpuppets like Alcohol Concern and ASH - going to local councils without a ringfence.

This would do more for public health and for the care of people across England than the provision of stern lectures about our bad lifestyle choices or campaigns to ban, tax, regulate and control things the high-ups in Public Health don't approve of. We should be funding care not fussbucketry.


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