"Recently proposed reforms...are likely to make things worse, not better, in the short to medium term"—Liz Leffman
In an article in the Witney Gazette on October 6th, 2021, Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, wrote about the crisis facing social care:
"Oxfordshire has an aging population. In this respect we are ahead of much of the rest of the country, which is why the reforms to social care really matter here. Yet what has been proposed will make things worse, not better, for many people, and the care sector won’t see any benefit at all from the increase in National Insurance contributions until at least 2023. In spite of the pressure that care homes and care agencies have been under throughout the pandemic, in the short term all the money raised through the increase in NI contributions will go to the NHS, not to care homes or to support the agencies that provide care to people at home. And ironically, these agencies and care homes will actually see an increase in the amount they have to pay in National Insurance as employers, meaning that they will have to find extra money for this from somewhere. Strangely, the very people who are to be the recipients of extra funding will be paying for this through their increased NI contributions! Care workers, nurses, emergency service workers – these people will all be paying more, as will their employers.
A good deal of this burden will fall on the County Council, which has a statutory responsibility for providing social care. Not only does OCC have to increase its employers NI contributions like everyone else, the council is likely to have to take on board increased fees from providers as they struggle to contain the extra cost themselves. The only way that councils can cope with this will be to raise council tax, which will once again transfer the burden onto the shoulders of the least well off. Either that, or we will have to make cuts to other essential services.
Reform to the way in which we manage social care in this country is long overdue and has been written about for many years, with many suggestions as to how it should be integrated into the NHS. We need to ensure that when people need care it is provided promptly and effectively, without the need for long drawn-out assessment and the worry that it brings to both the receivers of care and their families. The government needs to press the pause button, have a rethink and come up with proposals that are not just written on the back of an envelope. They need to involve the providers of social care, and the local authorities which are responsible for the provision, so that reforms take proper account of need and provide long term security for our disabled and older citizens, who rely on these services. The recently proposed reforms achieve none of this and in fact are likely to make things worse, not better, in the short to medium term."
—Liz Leffman, Lib Dem Councillor for Charlbury and Wychwood and Leader of Oxfordshire County Council.