CCN warns against centralisation of social care

Cllr David Fothergill, CCN spokesperson for health and social care

Council leaders have warned against a ‘knee jerk’ centralisation of social care in the aftermath of Coronavirus.

The County Councils Network (CCN) said moving away from localised systems and potentially removing powers from local authorities was the wrong route to take. Earlier this week, The Guardian reported social care could be brought under control of the NHS, with commissioning and budgets controlled by the health service rather than councils.

The network’s 36 members are responsible for half of the country’s spend on care services. It said councils want a role in system reform working with local NHS organisations to improve community-based care.

They argue adult social care services are for people not just in old age, but for working-age individuals with severe learning disabilities and chronic health conditions, and that services require local knowledge which councils have.

The 36 authorities said they have helped source 160,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for care providers, as well as offering support in other areas. They argue issues with the distribution of PPE to care homes and the national testing programme showed the drawbacks of a centralised care service.

The councils estimated they will spend an additional £837m this year for Covid-related costs to support providers. County authorities have been provided with £1.16bn of additional resources to help meet these costs. However, they said it has been insufficient as they face £841m of additional costs in other services and a further £1.55bn in lost income pressures.

In total, central government has provided all councils – county and district – with £3.2bn of additional money during the pandemic.

On the money getting to providers, Nadra Ahmed, National Care Association, told CM: ‘This is not being recognised in the sector in general. The messages we have received is that people by and large have not had support from their local authorities. There are exceptions where some local authorities have stepped up and supported local care providers.’

In May, during a Health and Social Care Committee hearing, Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green called for a ‘national strategy’ to get money directly to the frontline as well as an ‘examination’ of what needed to be local and what needed to be national. However, ADASS president James Bullion said national approaches to testing and PPE had been ‘very, very challenging’ and where things had worked well was with local government and local NHS coming together.

Cllr David Fothergill, CCN spokesperson for health and social care, and leader of Somerset County Council, said: ‘The harrowing scenes that we have witnessed in our care sector deserve scrutiny, but we should be wary of a knee-jerk reaction that removes democratic oversight from adult social care and places it in a centralised system that Coronavirus has shown contains huge drawbacks.

‘Many of the people supported by councils require their care more embedded in their community, not provided by a one-size fits all, system which cannot make the best use of localised knowledge and networks.’