Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Graph Of Doom And The Cap That Doesn't Fit

Adult and Children's Services Consume Total Council Budget

Earlier this year Barnet Council produced what they called the "Graph of Doom" which suggested that within 20 years, unless things change dramatically, the council will be unable to provide any services except Adult Social Care and Children’s Services.

No libraries, no parks, no leisure centres – not even bin collections.

Here in Reading the net Adult Social Care budget alone is already 36% of the council's total budget of £120million. In other words, £44million must be found in 2012/13 to support 4,000 service users, from a population of 160,000 people. This has increased from £33million in 2007/08. At this rate of increase Reading is on a similar path to Barnet.

While the coalition government has recently suggested that a "Dilnot cap" of £35,000 on the care bills that adults will pay over their lifetimes may be possible, with the state picking up the remaining costs, the proposals are not expected to be introduced before 2017.

However, as councils fear they will be expected to cover much of the increased costs without pound for pound support from central government, John Redwood has pointed out that the cap does not cover accommodation costs, so people could spend far more than £35,000 before the cap takes effect.

In some parts of the country, particularly southern England (including Reading), many care homes already charge more than the local council is prepared to pay, meaning that even residents who get their fees paid by the state still have to top it up. At present councils pay around £461 a week, including accommodation, for people who qualify for residential care. But in southern England weekly fees average at £817 a week, or £42,500 a year.

Redwood calculates that only £271 a week paid by the resident would count toward the cap. That would mean it would take two and a half years before they are judged to have spent £35,000, by which time they would have racked up bills of £105,500. Even then the resident would only get their care costs paid up to the level set by the council. Over four years the resident would still have had to pay £149,000 even with a cap, compared with £170,000 without a cap.

The challenges facing families and councils are immense, so let's not pretend these latest proposals will "solve the riddle of paying for our elderly relatives to be cared for in nursing homes".

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