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Third of councils to lose cash in social care changes, says Burnham

Former Labour health secretary says redistribution of the new homes bonus means less money for some local authorities.

Powered by article titled “Third of councils to lose cash in social care changes, says Burnham” was written by Rowena Mason Deputy political editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 28th December 2016 00.01 UTC

One in three councils will lose money as a result of the government’s changes aimed at bailing out struggling social care services, Andy Burnham has said.

The former health secretary said on Wednesday that 57 local authorities would be worse off after the government diverted funds for incentivising new homes to one-off social care grants in 2017/18.

Councils could previously use the money from the new homes bonus for any purpose. Now this cash is being ringfenced for social care and redistributed among councils, creating some winners and losers, said Burnham – Labour’s candidate to be mayor of Greater Manchester.

He said in Greater Manchester there were four councils – Salford, Manchester, Bolton and Tameside – that would lose a combined £3.5m under the government’s changes.

“Theresa May’s government are playing a dangerous game on social care,” he said. “They promised help for struggling councils but it is now clear that, while they were giving with one hand, they were taking away with the other.

“Far from acting on the social care crisis, the brutal reality is that the government is deepening it and inflicting even more cuts on councils in some of the poorest parts of England.

“Social care has already been cut to the bone. If this further round of cuts goes ahead, it could have serious consequences for the NHS. That is why I am calling on Theresa May to intervene in this row and give a clear guarantee that no council in England will face cuts in central government funding next April.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said almost £900m of additional funding had been announced for the next two years to tackle growing pressure on social care.

“However, we know that money alone is not the solution,” he said. “There is a diversity of provision across councils, with many already providing high-quality social care services within existing budgets.

“The prime minister is clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution, including making sure all local authorities learn from the best performers to raise standards across the whole system.”

A Conservative spokesman also accused Burnham of “playing politics on this issue”, saying it was disappointing “given Labour’s record”.

“They ran for election in 2015 explicitly ruling out any additional money for social care – and Andy Burnham himself was shadow health secretary at the time,” the spokesman said.

Ministers announced earlier this month that local authorities would be able to increase council tax faster and apply to a fund for extra money, after growing calls from hospitals and politicians across all parties for the government to act.

Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, also unveiled a new £240m fund for social care grants made up of money transferred from the budget for the new homes bonus.

However, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said the extra cash is not enough, while arguing that council tax is a regressive way of raising money that disproportionately hits the poorest.

Labour also released a separate analysis on Tuesday suggesting the shortage of social care places for the elderly and vulnerable cost the NHS around £456m in the 12 months to October.

The party highlighted the cost of “bed-blocking” in the NHS as councils struggle to fund social care in the face of rising demand and pressure on their budgets.

Its analysis said the number of days lost to delayed discharges has soared by 130% since 2010, with about 4,568 people trapped on hospital wards despite being well enough to leave on the last Thursday for which data is available. According to official figures, an excess bed day costs £306.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, said thousands of older people will be stuck on hospital wards this Christmas season as a result of the failures in social care.

“The government is letting older people down by failing to provide much needed investment for social care,” he said. “The crisis in our social care system is having a knock-on effect on overstretched hospitals and GP surgeries, and patients deserve better than this Tory failure.”

Responding to the figures on the cost of delayed discharges, a government spokesman said: “No one should be in hospital unnecessarily – and so to rise to the challenge of an ageing population, ‎we’re ensuring the money available to local authorities for social care increases every year and by up to £3.5bn extra in 2020.

“The government is also investing an extra £10bn to fund the NHS’s own plan for the future to reduce pressure on hospitals – sadly, Labour committed to neither.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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