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At last a BCF lifeline for Staffordshire

Blog post 4 July 2017

Staffordhsire is to get £30m from the Better Care Fund to help with its social care programme.

I read the news in The Sentinal online this morning as I was catching up on the social care headlines of the day.

In June last year Staffordshire County Council approved cuts totaling nearly £14m to shore up social care, so doubtles this latest news will be welcome.

Delays in getting the money ‘out there’ have been partly caused by CCGs being instructed by NHS England to ‘prioritise funding’.  Clearly, Staffordshire have had more than their fair share of prioritising to do (memories of the Francis inquiry report come flooding back), but at last it appears we have some traction here.

As ever, the cogs of funding help turn very slowly, but the £30m will  help offset – at least for a little while – Staffordshire’s £15m shortfall that was announced last year.

The allocation will include £15m in the current year budget, and another £15m for 2018/19 and 2019/20.

And obviously this is in addition to the extra monies raised from Staffordshire taxpayers, following the authority's decision to impose the maximum three per cent social care council tax precept earlier this year.

The Better Care Fund programme spans both the NHS and local government and seeks to join-up health and care services, so that “people can manage their own health and wellbeing, and live independently in their communities for as long as possible.”

The vital thrust of such cash is to keep the frail and elderly out of hospital, something all local authorities are keen to achieve.

The intentions of the BCF are good, but long term prospects are at best foggy: The government’s extra BCF cash will cease in 2020.

Let me borrow some quotes from Staffordshire County Council’s Alan White, cabinet member for care.

In today’s report he’s quoted as saying: “This year the council will be spending a record £300 million on social care of adults, people with learning disabilities and children in our care.

“The Government has recognised the incredible funding pressures to provide social care for an increasing number of elderly people in counties like Staffordshire with the limited budgets available.

“This extra grant will help prevent some people from having to go into hospital by caring for them in their homes and communities where possible, will help towards paying increased care staff wage bills and will reduce delays in hospital discharges and assessments.

“However, while this funding is both welcome and needed to protect services, it is important to recognise that this is limited and it is more important than ever that people keep themselves as healthy and independent as possible and plan ahead for their later years."

Clearly a new way of funding social care is needed in the long-term. In the care sector, however, we have noted that all government care fixes to date have been short-term ones.

£30m is a huge sum of money, but sadly just a drop in the ocean towards resolving the national social care headache,