Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 24th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 2:46 pm, 24th April 2019

I associate myself with the comments of the other two Front Benchers about the events over the weekend. I had the honour of being in Jerusalem for Easter and was shocked on Thursday and then on Sunday to hear of such horrific events. I was sitting in a site that is so precious to the three monotheistic faiths when I heard that, after the terrorist attack in New Zealand, we had had violence in Northern Ireland and then the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka.

Turning to this afternoon’s debate, I echo the comments of Andrew Gwynne. Here we are yet again. The Green Paper that we should be debating to consider sustainable funding for social care has been kicked into the long grass five times, and there is no sign of it coming forward. Is that just because the House, the Government and the civil servants are too busy with Brexit, or is there really a lack of ideas on how to solve the situation? The problem, however, is that we should urgently be thinking about a way forward.

The NHS five year forward view was based on game-changing public health changes and funding and increased social care funding and provision, because otherwise all we will see is increased demand at the front door of the NHS and then a blockage and leakage of funds at the back end. The four-hour target that we often talk about does not just measure A&E performance; it is about the flow of patients through the system. If patients cannot get home at the other end, the system simply breaks down.

Local government in England has seen an average 28% cut in funding, and I have been shocked by some of the figures that Members have mentioned, which range from 46% to 75% to 97% cuts in central funding. Obviously, everyone has faced cuts to their budgets, but there has been only a 5% reduction in local government funding in Scotland despite a 7% cut in the resource budget. The situation has been much more protected than has been the case in England. In Wales, there has been an 11% cut.

I welcome the long-term NHS plan because it unpicks some of the damage done by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, particularly by reforming section 75, and it tries to drive integration, which I think Members on both sides of the House would recognise is the only way forward. However, it was disappointing to discover yesterday on the Health and Social Care Committee that local government was not involved, almost at all, in putting together the long-term plan, yet it will be expected to deliver more and stronger social care to relieve pressure on the NHS.