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Kent facing social care crisis despite government plans to allow council tax rise of up to 6%

By Paul Francis

Kent's social services chief says government plans to increase council tax to help ease the pressure on adult care budgets will not solve a chronic funding crisis.

The government has announced today a plan to allow councils to increase bills by up to 6% over the next two years in the face of a spiralling demand for care. 

Councils will be permitted to choose how to spread the increase so long as it does not exceed 3% in each of the two years.

Elderly sick woman resting in bed

Elderly sick woman resting in bed

Communities secretary Sajid David said the plans overalll would raise an extra £900m for care services in the next two years. There will also be a £240m adult care fund.

The Prime Minister pledged to find a long-term sustainable solution to the problems of funding.

But the politician in charge of vulnerable older people at Kent County Council said the extra money would not go far enough to resolve chronic problems of underfunding.

And the Kent-based chairman of the National Care Association warned the system was “on a cliff edge”.

Speaking ahead of the announcement, Cllr Graham Gibbens, cabinet member for adult care, said he welcomed the fact the government was listening but a short term fix would not solve the issue.

He said: “At last the government is realising that adult social care needs to be adequately funded. If the council tax is increased by 1%  that is transferring responsibility directly to local authorities.

"It is not really enough. Nationally, an injection of £1.3 billion pounds is needed. We do need considerably more money to have a viable adult social care sector. I think the government does realise  there are pressures on social care.”

He added that failing to give councils more money would create problems for the NHS.

“If there is a breakdown in the social care system nationally it will have an impact on health. If we are not able to adequately treat people when they come out of the NHS system into social care then the chances are they will end up back in the NHS system and quite likely back in hospital.”

A 3% increase in council tax bills would see the county council’s share for homes in Band D - the average - rise from £1,156.14 to £1,190.16 - a hike of £34.02.

It could potentially raise about £15m but KCC says that would not resolve the issue. Its draft budget sets out plans to cut spending on adult care by £13m - and the new living wage will push up costs further.

Ukip opposition leader Cllr Roger Latchford said: “I am absolutely appalled. Care of the elderly is a national problem and it shouldn’t be passed down to residents.

"We have rising inflation, static wages and the net result is people facing rising costs with reduced income.”

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care and public health

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care and public health

He added that the government should look to cut its own spending on areas like international aid.

Meanwhile, care organisations said the funding crisis was on a cliff edge.

Nadra Ahmed, the Kent-based chairman of the National Care Association, said:

“We are past a crisis in social care and at the edge of a cliff. The problem with all of this is is that it can’t be a short sharp fix or a sticking plaster. So, if we are looking at an increase in council tax to boost funding then I am worried about what will happen if we don’t create some sustainable way forward.”

Library image

Library image

“We have to look very carefully at the type of care that is being provided in what is termed social care - we are talking about medical care needs being met and this is not what social care was 30 years ago.”

Care homes and care providers were leaving the market partly because local authorities had squeezed the market.

“We are small businesses spending money to create these services which are required. Now we are looking down the barrel of a gun because there will be people in certain localities that will have no choice about where to go.”

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