Most councils are engaged in finalising and announcing their budgets for 2016/2017. For local governments, this process includes considering policy objectives, looking at how much money is available, and prioritising what they can afford to spend. All while meeting their statutory duties.
In his October 2015 budget, the Chancellor announced that councils would be able to increase council tax by up to 1.99% to raise money for much-needed adult social care services.
These services have, of course, suffered badly as a result of austerity measures. And, when combined with the rising demands of an ageing population, have resulted in an ever-growing and alarming shortfall in funding.
As such, the BBC reports that currently, 90% of Councils are exercising the option to levy this social care charge.
While, in theory, increased revenue to pay for social care sounds positive, in practice the position is not quite so rosy.
In 2015, we saw the introduction of legislation setting out the requirement for a new National Living Wage – an increase of 50p per hour upon the previous National Minimum Wage.
The introduction of the Living Wage is, of course, a positive change that will affect many lower paid social care employees. However, in practical terms, this means that the 1.99% rise in Council Tax will be almost entirely absorbed by increased salary responsibilities, and will in no way go towards improving service provision.
In short, any increase in council tax will not prevent the ongoing cutbacks to social care services, and elderly and vulnerable people will continue to receive less of the support they need to live independent and dignified lives.
In turn, this inevitably leads to increased financial pressure upon the NHS, as hospital admissions of elderly and vulnerable people continue to rise.
The vice-chair of the Local Government Association, Nick Forbes, stated:
“The quality and quantity of services on offer could drop……Councils will continue to do all they can to maintain the services that older and vulnerable people rely on, but services supporting the elderly and disabled are at breaking point. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix them.
“Vital social care services will increasingly be unable to help ease the growing pressure on the NHS and the threat of a care home crisis is still very real.”
Calls are now being made to the government for further funding to be immediately released from The Better Care Fund; a joint funding initiative that aims to increase the integration of health and social care services, to avert an escalation of the crisis.
Unfortunately, in times when resources are so scarce, more and more people are not receiving the services or funding they are entitled to. If you or a family member have concerns about this issue, expert legal advice can make all the difference.
Please contact us on 0800 042 0700 if you would like further legal advice from a member of our team.