My Account

Date: Wednesday 3 October 2018
Author: Councillor Piers Allen
Title: Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Health (including public health)

This week in Richmond upon Thames, we are proudly celebrating the 70th birthday of social care, the twin service to that of the NHS that came along with the National Assistance Act 1948. We are celebrating this anniversary not only to acknowledge the dedication of our local adult social care workforce (which includes our social workers, occupational therapists, care providers and valiant voluntary sector) but also to highlight the borough’s army of unpaid family carers, estimated at nearly 16,000 individuals. 

We are also marking the occasion to raise the important issue of funding for the sector, which for too long has been treated by central Government as a ‘Cinderella service’, as highlighted in a report earlier this year from the National Audit Office. 

Unlike the NHS, adult social care has not received additional funding and has had years of underfunding. It faces a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care. In response, councils across the country have had to make savings, reduce budgets and find innovative ways to balance the books. At the same time, the adult social care system is facing unprecedented challenges.

We are living longer and as a result, the need for social care and support (as well as health care) is increasing. In Richmond, population estimates are predicting a 15.8% increase of people aged 75 and over, which is the age group most likely to need services. 

At the same time, we are seeing concerns rise about the quality of social care and the growing number of people who are unable to access care. The likely consequences of the increasing shortfall of funding to councils, who have the responsibility of providing social care services, is of more and more people being unable to get the quality and reliable care and support that enables them to maintain their independence and wellbeing.

Last month, the Council held a local consultation meeting with residents at Clarendon Hall to discuss The lives we want to lead; the Local Government Association’s Green Paper on adult social care and wellbeing.

We heard how, for at least two decades, successive governments have failed to find an answer to how we fund adult social care for the long term and how sticking plaster solutions have failed to address all the immediate pressures, let alone deal with the longer term. In Richmond, we are doing all we can to control costs (as well as supporting our local health services by reducing delayed transfers of care from hospital) while preserving front line services, but there is no confirmation of funding available beyond 2019/20, creating unprecedented uncertainty for the future.

Residents at the meeting gave widespread support for reform to the current system of adult social care to make it fairer and sustainable, protecting people from unlimited care costs and looking at different options to find a new system. The Government urgently need to address these solutions in their own Green Paper, postponed from publication earlier this year. However, I am delighted that my colleague Cllr Robin Brown (Richmond Cabinet Member for Finance) will this week be writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Matt Hancock, MP) to raise the particular issues and pressures we face in Richmond and to urgently request a meeting to discuss these in more detail.

We desperately need a fair and sustainable financial settlement and are fast running out of road for the Government to kick the can down.

Updated: 24 March 2021