In 2010, you delivered an Emergency Budget you argued would protect the most vulnerable, even as we looked to clear the country’s debts.
You have taken a number of welcome measures in this Parliament:
Helping older people with the cost of living by introducing a triple lock guarantee for increases in the basic state pension
Helping pensioners meet the extra costs they face in old age by continuing to protect vital pensioner benefits
Taking steps to help people save more for their retirement and exercise freedom and choice when they access their pensions savings
Whilst we recognise tough decisions were required to bring down the deficit, we don’t believe the Government has done enough to protect crucial care services for frail older people.
Shockingly, 362,000 fewer older people received help with their care needs from their council in 2013/14, compared with the situation in 2008/9.
By 2013/14, over 17% less money was being spent on care and support services for older people. And yet we know the older population grew during this period; with demand for home help, aids, and meals on wheels going up, not down.
On March 18th, we would like you to redouble your efforts to protect the most vulnerable, because if the care system was facing an emergency back in 2010, it is now surely broken.
We call on you to ensure local authorities have all the necessary resources to implement the Care Act, which comes into effect in England in just two weeks’ time. We are pleased the Government has said it will monitor whether councils have the necessary funding to deliver their duties under the Act. However, we would like the Government to go a step further: to commit that it will plug any shortfalls, if councils find they don’t have sufficient funds to meet their legal obligations.
Whilst we back the Care Act, our recent research suggests local authorities are seriously worried the reforms risk being jeopardised because they are short of funds.
With spending on care accounting for a third of local authority budgets, reductions in local authority budgets will inevitably have an effect on the amount and quality of care older people can receive. But whatever decisions you take, we believe it’s now vital you arrest the decline in the numbers of older people going without basic care and support.
We recommend one final measure. We want you to announce a cross-cutting review of health and care spending, making sure that by the time of this autumn’s spending review, we are doing everything we need to as a country to raise the necessary funds for our rapidly ageing population.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has already highlighted we may have to find additional revenue streams to meet the demands implied by so many of us living longer lives. Now is the time to be bold and reconsider what we are willing to pay as a country to secure quality health and care.