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Kent County Council leader says government must face up to the consequences of care budget cuts

By Paul Francis

The Conservative leader of Kent County Council has warned the government must act urgently over the crisis in adult social care.

Councillor Paul Carter said that the government needed to get a grip on the problems before the crisis worsened.

The Conservative-run authority will today consider an urgent report examining whether growing numbers of vulnerable elderly residents are getting the care they need and if the council is doing all it could.

The women worked to improve care for frail patients. Stock image
The women worked to improve care for frail patients. Stock image

Cllr Carter said he wanted the government to consider diverting money from the Foreign Aid budget to councils to help meet the escalating costs of looking after the growing number of elderly residents.

It comes as Surrey County Council announced it planned a 15 percent increase in council tax bills to pump more money into adult care.

Mr Carter said KCC would be sticking by its plans for a 3.99% increase in bills.

“My message to government is that we have saved tens of millions of pounds in the last five to six years but we cannot go on in that direction without consequences. The barrel has been well and truly scraped and we have to look at different ways of getting more money into the social care system. We have got enough money to get by next year but the big issue is how we get adequate funding next year.”

The barrel has been well and truly scraped and we have to look at different ways of getting more money into the social care system - KCC leader Paul Carter

The council’s most significant pressures in this year’s include an extra £31 million to cover additional demand and increased costs for adult social care - against a backdrop of savings of £80m it is having to make because of government grant cuts.

The report acknowledges the pressures social care is facing but says delayed discharges from Kent hospitals are actually declining and that the county is performing well against the national average. But it warns that there is an urgent need to look at long-term funding.

It states: “Care markets have been under sustained pressure for a number of years and they are contracting, with some providers exiting the market. There are areas of the county where it is now becoming increasingly difficult both for self-funders and for the council to be able to arrange care packages at short notice for out of hospital discharge. There is an urgent need for central and local government to come together to find sustainable funding arrangements for social care.”

It goes on to highlight the difficulties care contractors have responding to spikes in demand:

“The most pressing issue for KCC in this regard is the capacity of the domiciliary care market to respond to demand, in particular, in ways which help us to respond to demand from acute hospitals.”

Social services chiefs say KCC’’s policy of “re-enablement” - under which patients who have been in hospital six weeks intensive care before returning home - are sometimes held up because there is no carer available to take them on.

As at 16 January 2017, of the 73 people that had finished the programme of enablement, 63 were still waiting for care packages to be arranged so they could return home.

Mr Carter revealed the council was working with the Saga group to examine whether there was the market for personalised insurance schemes to cover the cost of care.

“Looking at other authorities things could be a lot worse and we are not doing too badly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Medway council leader Alan Jarrett fired a broadside at his own government for placing it under ridiculous financial pressure.

“We are all in exactly the same boat. It is wrong for the government to say it has given us money we need - it has done no such thing. What they mean is that they have allowed us to increase council tax. Medway won't be having a referendum but the situation is dire. The government needs to adequately fund social care and remove this ridiculous cap on council tax.”

Cllr Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council
Cllr Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council

He went on:

"It is madness and it is deeply frustrating. We can see where the problem lies and all the government tell us to do used to follow the best practice of other councils."

Medway is setting a five per cent increase in bills consisting of a 2% increase for all services and a 3% supplement for social care.

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