25/03/2010 Leave a comment
This afternoon I proposed a motion to Suffolk County Councils full Council that would allow the Leader of the Council to respond to the Consultation on the Free Personal Care at Home Bill and was about how we ensure that Suffolk continues to provide the best possible support to people with the highest needs in Suffolk to live independently within their own home.
This is a key priority for us, as I suppose it is for most Councils and will be even more important as we face a growing demand for services in future with a budget that is unlikely to match this increase.
Of course we all welcome any additional government investment in personal home care, but its got to be used to best effect for the people of Suffolk and elsewhere across the country, not to fund a headline thought up in the wee small hours before a party conference speech.
Our estimate indicates that the annual cost to Suffolk County Council could be of the order of £14m, but frankly it’s a bit of stab in the dark as its really difficult to estimate The loss of income from people assessed as having critical needs for whom the council arranges their care; not to mention the unknown number of people who arrange and pay in full for their own care taken together with; and indeed we are making quite an assumption that not many of those who currently receive care from unpaid family carers who will seek free external care for the first time.
When you analysis the government’s own figures after the grant that the council will receive from government, the additional cost to the county council will be £7.6m.
This is double what the government has estimated and double the amount the government expects us to achieve through efficiency savings to deliver this initiative, which is very scary.
Of course as is almost the default position of central government is that any gap can be made up from efficiency saving, but unlike Government departments who have never hi their own targets, Suffolk’s record on efficiency savings is exemplary, and this is echoed by Adult and Community Services. The success of our Home First reablement service is testimony to that. However we will struggle to achieve further efficiency savings when we already face the very real pressures of increasing needs for care and an ageing population at a time when our budgets are stretched.
As I have said before that’s why we need to have a full debate around the whole subject not a knee jerk piece of Legislation as this Bill undoubtedly is; hopeful by the time it goes back to the Lords the Government will at least delay it’s implementation for a fuller debate and I just bet that when the White Paper is Published just before Parliament rises for the General election it is delayed and gets dovetailed into the Care Bill proposals so it looks like its part of a co-ordinated plan, which undoubtedly it is not!