West Midlands care directors welcome letter from regional councils urging the government to release social care funding
Government funding to support vulnerable residents is delayed
The Leaders of thirteen local councils in the West Midlands have written to the government, urging it to release heavily delayed social care funding to ensure vulnerable residents continue to be supported.
The government announced in July that local councils would be required to meet a new national target by September to reduce the proportion of NHS beds unnecessarily occupied due to delayed discharges from hospital to 3.5%. If councils fail to meet this target, NHS England has indicated that it will not release their Better Care funding, which is used to deliver critical services for older, vulnerable residents.
In the West Midlands, the funding totals approximately £150million. This is used by local councils to fund a range of essential services to support vulnerable residents to safely leave hospital, including home care, residential / nursing care and reablement, all of which directly support NHS services. Since the start of 2017, a sustained effort by councils has already led to a significant reduction in the number of people delayed in hospital, because they are waiting for social care.
Martin Samuels, co-chair of the West Midlands Branch of ADASS and Director for Adults and Wellbeing for Herefordshire Council, said: “As directors with responsibility for social care, we welcome this letter from the council leaders. Adult social care services across the region work hard to ensure older, vulnerable residents can be safely discharged from hospital, at the right time, with the correct level of support in place.
“If this essential government funding is not released, the services provided to support residents to live safe, healthy and independent lives will be severely affected and as winter approaches, it could have a drastic impact on local people. It will also significantly increase the pressure on our local NHS service, meaning the delayed hospital discharges target will never be achieved.
“The letter urging the government to provide immediate assurance that local councils will receive their funding in full has been signed by Leaders from different political parties and from councils of different types. This underlines that this is not a narrow political issue. Rather, it highlights a shared recognition that, to ensure our region’s most vulnerable residents continue to be supported and protected, the promised funding must be released.”
As part of the national Better Care Fund, councils and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are required to combine funding in order to protect the delivery of adult social care services and support NHS commissioned out of hospital services. The government funding comes from NHS England and is released to CCGs with approval for elements of the money to be transferred to local councils to support adult social care services. NHS England requires councils and CCGs to submit local health and social care plans in support of this funding, which have been agreed by the relevant council’s Health and Wellbeing Board.
The government guidance for the health and social care plans for 2017/18 and 2018/19, was not issued until July 2017 and yet plans, including the newly introduced requirement to reduce delayed discharges from hospital, had to be submitted by early September. NHS England will not release any funding until the plans have been through a national assurance process, which is not due to be completed until late October.
NHS England has also indicated that funds will be further withheld if local health and social care systems have not made sufficient progress in reducing the number of delayed discharges from hospital by the end of September. However, this decision, which will be based on validated performance, will not be made until November, by which time councils will have already spent almost three quarters of the expected funding.