Ministers have been accused of being “in denial” over the “perilous” state of local government finances in England as councils struggle to maintain essential services like adult and children’s social care.
The Public Accounts Committee says the government is using short-term cash investments which won’t fix the long-term problem of funding social care.
It says central government funding to English local authorities has been cut by almost half in the last eight years, at the same time as demand for critical services like social care has risen.
The Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP said: “The government is in denial about the perilous state of local finances. It insists the sector is sustainable yet is unwilling or unable to back up this claim.
“Government needs to get real, listen fully to the concerns of local government and take a hard look at the real impact funding reductions have on local services. And then it needs to plan properly for the long term.”
Elaine Yates lives in Northamptonshire, a county council that was effectively bailed out by the government to save it from bankruptcy.
She has had to give up her job to become a full-time carer for her husband Michael.
His multiple health issues – including a brain injury, cancer and diabetes – mean he also needs support from professional carers which costs the family £100 a week.
Elaine said: “You are a second class citizen, there’s no other word for it. You talk to the government but they’re not listening, they’re not taking note.
“There’s money going out for this, there’s money going out for that, all this money that’s being spent on Brexit, and I’m thinking ‘where is the social care?’
“I’m frightened, extremely frightened…I’m frightened of how we are going to cope looking after him on the budget we’ve got.”
Councillor Sandra Naden-Horley, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for adult social care, said: “The council recognises that social care is facing a challenging time.
“Demand is increasing and with an ageing population and people living with more complex conditions we are seeing a rise in cost and a rise in the number of people we have to support each year.
“There is also significant demand coming from our hospitals where increasing numbers of elderly patient are being admitted and require support when they leave hospital.
“This has put a strain on the budgets but our main priority is still to provide good quality and safe care to people who need our help.”
Elaine and Michael’s story is far from unique. Age UK says more than half a million older people have had their requests for social care refused by their council.
They say 7,240 older people have had the terrible experience of running down all their savings because of their care bills.
Angela Kitching, Head of External Affairs at Age UK said: “This week will mark 700 days since the government first announced its intention to publish a social care green paper which was supposed to lay out the future funding of social care for adults – mostly older people – who need help with washing, getting out of bed, eating etc.
“We’ve found that since they first made that announcement over 50,000 older people have died already having been assessed as needing that support, but not receiving any from their local authority or the state.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the care and support they need and have provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9bn for next year to help meet people’s needs.
“We are determined to make social care sustainable for the future and will publish our proposals in a green paper shortly.”