The care Quality Commission (CQC) are warning that social care services are at 'tipping point', and local councils including Rochdale, who are responsible for proving the services, are facing yet more drastic cuts.
I spoke about this growing crisis last week in parliament. Sadly, I believe that worse is yet to come as Theresa May’s government look set to continue the work begun by David Cameron and George Osborne.
Across the UK, local government funding has been reduced by 37% in real terms between 2010 and 2016, and the Local Government Association has estimated that councils’ overall funding gap will amount to £5.8 billion by 2020.
Here in Heywood and Middleton we have been hit hard. Rochdale Council has had to make huge government cuts of £200 million in the past six years. Social care budgets face even more pressure in the next two years, as the council is forced to save a further £40 million. The social care precept of 2% on council tax this year will raise only about £1.4 million, which is a drop in the ocean of Rochdale’s total adult social care budget of £80 million.
Inevitably, there have been serious consequences as a result of this underfunding. Our hospitals and A&E departments report a 70% increase in bed-blocking. They identify the cause as the fact that social care is not available to allow patients to be discharged safely. The figure was 108,000 in April 2012, but it was a staggering 184,000 this July. Bed occupancy rates exceeded 91% during January to March 2016, which is the highest quarterly rate in the past six years.
These figures serve to emphasise that cuts to social care services have had an inevitable knock-on effect on the NHS, heightening the bed-blocking problem, as patients are forced to stay in hospital for longer because they are unable to get the support that they need at home. By properly funding adult social care, we could remove the burden from our hospitals, so that they could carry on the important acute work for which their services are intended.
Those cuts to council services have severely taken their toll on the health and social care provision that millions of people rely on. That now presents an immediate risk to those patients and providers. Councils face a £1.9 billion funding gap in adult social care. The government need to act now to protect local government funding and the essential services Rochdale Council and all local authorities provide.