Paying the price

The Chancellor unveiled his plans yesterday to commit £2bn to the social care sector – welcome news indeed! At last some acknowledgement of how fragile the sector is financially, perhaps demonstrated by the £1bn that will be available in 2017/18. Although let’s not get too excited just yet, let’s see how it plays out. Putting the announcement in context though, that total figure is less than half of what’s been stripped out; some are describing it as a ‘drop in the ocean’. Over the coming days it will be interesting to see what it truly means to Local Authorities, how far it will stretch and how it will be passed on to providers.

Looking forward, the stability of the sector needs to be addressed now so that a long term solution can be found, so here’s hoping the Green Paper on Adult Social Care that Mr Hammond mentioned does actually offer some sensible improvements and necessary reforms. There is an additional £325m to allow the first NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans to proceed too. How much difference that actually makes in the scheme of things remains to be seen. Sorry to sound cynical but money and plans need to be turned in to actions and impact.

 Last week saw the airing of Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, “Under Lock and Key”, which followed the stories of 3 young people and examined hospital care for people with learning disabilities and complex needs.

The programme strongly demonstrated how personalised support transforms the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society. It has been over 5 years since the abhorrent abuse of people at Winterbourne View was exposed, and the Government response to that scandal, Transforming Care, has failed to deliver the changes that are vital. I am saddened that we are still more or less in the same position as we were back then, regardless of the huge amount of ‘activity’ that seems to be going on. The key to the success of this boils down to being able to offer the right support to people though, which as we know all too well is becoming increasingly difficult. As the financial pressure builds, more contracts are being handed back and providers are exiting the market for one reason or another (including the focus on the sector by HMRC). With a shrinking market comes shrinking opportunity and lack of appropriate provision.

On 28th February, Andrea Sutcliffe was kind enough to meet with me for half an hour. I wanted to share the concerns from our membership, from the small to medium providers, who wouldn’t be on the market oversight ‘list’ and thus not so well monitored, but undoubtedly whose loss from the sector would still have a huge impact locally. Andrea and I spoke candidly about the issues facing providers across England. Andrea advised that she and her team have raised these concerns at the highest levels in the broader context of the current climate. I wonder when our collective concerns will get through.

The sleep-in and HMRC issue rolls on. Last Thursday, there was a Cross Sector Summit held in London for ARC England, VODG, Care England and LDE members with an update provided by Trowers & Hamlins solicitors. It was a very interesting and engaging session. I will share the points raised in a separate communication to members but just to say, there is on-going contact with various government departments and ministers, as you’d expect, as well as other sector stakeholders. We are not, however, seeing too much light at the end of the tunnel I am afraid. Saying that, something has to change. Something all providers can do is write to your Commissioner requesting an uplift in fees to cover the sleep-in liability you have. Sounds obvious right? But, it came to light from a recent survey that only 58% of the survey respondents (providers) had done this! It’s worth asking, so get writing, hopefully following the Chancellors announcement there will be more opportunity to get a positive response.


Lisa Lenton

ARC England Director