Thoughts & Insights

Why a council tax rise alone will not solve the social care funding crisis

Collaboration between the public, private and voluntary sectors is essential to address funding and workforce challenges, argues Paul Dossett

The planned council tax rise and government pledge to fund social care have done little to abate the growing frustration at the crisis breaking in the sector. If the prime minister is serious about making social care fit for purpose, her government needs to take a broader, more comprehensive look at the care industry. A rise in council tax alone is unlikely to be the silver bullet that solves the social care funding conundrum.

Social care is at a tipping point, according to the Care Quality Commission. Recent figures show that 77 of the 152 local authorities responsible for providing care for older people have seen at least one residential and nursing care provider close due to insufficient funds, and far more face severe financial pressures. Every time a local authority cannot deliver the social care its residents need, it puts further strain on the NHS.

Even with greater ability to raise taxes to pay for social care, it is some of the most deprived areas that will gain the least from the tax increase: Wirral, Barking and Dagenham and Kingston upon Hull to name but a few.

To get social care back on track, as a society we must radically rethink our strategy towards the health and happiness of the British people. We need to fully appreciate the role wellbeing and health play in the prosperity of the country as a whole, and not just see health and social care as a burden on the budget. We must learn how to do more with less in order to ensure that the health and social care system survives for years to come.

Safeguarding talent

It starts with talent. Once article 50 has been triggered, we will have to do more than ever to safeguard talent across the health and social care sectors. In the NHS, 9% of doctors and 6% of nurses are from the EU. In adult social care, the number rises to 12% of all professionals. It is crucial that we protect their status and ability to work in the UK – no strings attached.

Regardless of the passport you hold, little is being done to make care an attractive career choice. Roles are typically low paid, and subject to temporary contracts – a result of a squeeze on local government budgets.

Amid the gloom, there are promising signs. The government’s commitment to nurture homegrown talent bodes well for the state of healthcare in 10 years’ time, but we will see demand continue to intensify before these schemes bear fruit. Having the right level of appropriately skilled staff is non-negotiable, and the government must move to protect EU workers.

Building partnerships

Secondly, collaborative efforts that bring together the best of the public, private and third sectors have the potential to transform care as we know it.

There are already examples of excellent partnerships between councils and the NHS. For example, in Devon where local government and the NHS have worked together to share budgets. In this region, care homes have come together to develop a kite mark that allows operators in both the private and voluntary sectors to share ideas and information.

The private sector has a crucial role to play in future proofing social care in the UK. Businesses have the resources and expertise to fund pioneering research that could resolve the problems facing the NHS and social care. HomeTouch, for example, uses modern technology to address pressing healthcare issues. It has developed an online marketplace to help families find trusted, vetted home carers so patients can leave hospital sooner. It is just one example of the innovation sparked when the private sector is granted a role in public service delivery.

And the third sector can work alongside both private and public sectors to ensure patients are supported where they might need additional help. It has the specialisms and dedication to ensure that that empathy is at the core of healthcare. The Point of Care Foundation, for instance, is a charity with a mission to humanise healthcare and create a culture in which staff are valued and supported.

Last month, the Vibrant Economy Index demonstrated the necessity of cross-sector collaboration to tackle economic and social issues.

Measuring the overall performance of the country, the index reveals that urban areas, despite economic prosperity in the more traditional sense, perform less well in the health, wellbeing and happiness of their populations. It is in fact the inclusion and equality score of a place that correlates most with its social prosperity. Hart in Hampshire scores above average for inclusion, equality health and happiness. In contrast, Birmingham and Newcastle upon Tyne score correspondingly low in both categories.

Developing a blueprint

Greater Manchester emerges as a focal point for an opportunity to develop a blueprint for the rest of the UK. Although business is booming, economic prosperity is not reaching everyone.

Manchester’s devolved health budget provides the opportunity for deeper collaboration between sectors, with truly transformational potential.

This is already taking shape. For example, Health Innovation Manchester, a new research partnership, is working with industry, the public sector, and academic institutions to share knowledge, and remove barriers that prevent the development of life-changing innovations.

At Grant Thornton, we are also working to break down the barriers between different parts of the health system. Last month, we convened a day where people across the city met to share ideas and innovate, to shape Manchester’s future as a pioneer of world-class health. Partnerships like these must be cultivated.

The UK has a long tradition of providing care to those who need it most. Yet, without ensuring funding from government and private resources, and failing to do anything to secure talent, we endanger the future of British social care altogether.

Without a fit, healthy population, this country cannot grow and socio-economic divides will worsen. Social care is not an add on, and care is not just for individuals, but society as a whole.

Paul Dossett is head of local government at Grant Thornton UK

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on The Guardian