Richmond Council has voiced concerns that the government’s recent announcement on social care funding reforms is not enough to tackle the immediate crisis facing the sector and the thousands of local residents who rely on state support.
Speaking at the Full Council meeting last night (Tuesday 28 September), Councillor Robin Brown, Lead Member for Finance and Resources, said that the implementation of the reforms will cost upfront money and the government has not made it clear whether local tax-payers will once again be asked to cover the gap.
More urgently, Richmond upon Thames, along with local authorities and care providers across the country, face a crisis in care provision now, with high turnover and vacancy rates impacting the care residents are receiving.
Cllr Brown said:
“There is still much the government needs to make clear about the new funding arrangements which apply from 2023 but there are immediate issues to deal with now.
“We are concerned about cost pressures for the Council due to the increase in national insurance. Whilst we expect our own direct payroll costs to be covered, our contractors and suppliers will be facing a cost squeeze and may look to pass some of that on. Our local schools will likely be in the same boat.
“Many care homes are already under huge financial pressure, from COVID-19 grant support ending, energy price hikes and now national insurance cost increases. There are even reports that some banks are unwilling to lend to the sector.
“Longer term, more Richmond residents will ultimately receive state-funded care as a result of the changes, but Councils will have to pay for this, along with proposed extra staff training and possibly higher care home fees. This will increase the bill for the Council and it is currently unclear how and when we will be provided with funding. We hope that local taxpayers will not once again be expected to contribute.”
Cllr Piers Allen, Chair of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Services Committee, added:
“There is a crisis right now, in the recruitment and retention of social care staff, not just in this borough, but across London and across the country.
“Richmond Council and its contractors pay staff the London Living Wage, but in general lower pay rates, a difficulty of recruiting from overseas and challenges in retaining younger workers are all contributing to the problem. Combined with the requirement that all care home staff are vaccinated, the chronic staff shortage is creating extra stress in the system.
“This is an issue that care providers and councils have been flagging to government for a very long time - it is disappointing and concerning that this urgent issue has not been addressed in the government’s plans.”