Fear of 'crisis point' in Portsmouth social care as Covid-19 exposes 'flaws' in system

PENSIONERS have said flaws in under-funded adult care have been exposed as the coronavirus crisis hits the sector.

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 12:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 4:46 pm

Some £160m has been cut from Portsmouth City Council’s care budget over the last five years, with the government not covering a rising wage bill or more expensive care packages as older people with complex needs are living longer.

Now research undertaken by the Portsmouth Pensioners Association has said the needs of those in the sector - including some 17,000 informal carers in the city - have been ‘overlooked in this crisis in the same way that they have been over the past decade’.

Sue Mullan, from the association, carried out the research. Her report has called on MPs to put pressure on the government for funding, and has asked for older people to have financial security assurances.

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People near South Parade Pier during the lockdown. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The recommendations also include better co-ordination between charity and voluntary organisations and the council, and asked the authority to review its progress on its own strategy.

She said: ‘We all want to live a long life and enjoy our old age, but rarely are we able to cope without care and support, whether from family, friends and ultimately from professional care workers.

'Yet, despite the best efforts and dedication of individual family carers and of staff working in adult social care, the system is fast approaching crisis point because the care sector is deprived of the resources it needs to do the job it's been given.

‘Our research demonstrates that the whole care system has been neglected for years.

‘The current Covid-19 crisis has simply exposed the extent of the flaws in a seriously under-funded adult social care service and, despite increasing need, the extent to which it has been deprived of the resources required to do the job.'

The report highlighted the strain council care is under, but added informal carers are sometimes struggling to find the professional services or advice they need.

Councillor Matthew Winnington, the cabinet member for social care, said cash coming in ‘is just not enough’, particularly when the council can suddenly overnight be facing a £20,000-a-week care package bill for one person.

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He said during the crisis the NHS has been given a ‘blank cheque,’ and while he didn’t begrudge that, he added: ‘For councils that’s not the case. We’re not getting full cost recovery for what we’re spending with Covid-19.’

The government has handed the council £5.94m in a second round of funding but this was not enough, he said. The first allocation of £6.01m did cover costs, he added.

But Cllr Winnington said the issue has existed since before the crisis. He said: ‘We haven’t got the funding and it’s a real concern for the finances of the councils as a whole (across the country) and where we’re going to end up.

‘Whatever happens we have to provide statutory adult social care services come what may and we have a responsibility.’

A previous city council report said that by 2026 there will be 96,000 households – up by 22 per cent from 2001. Older people will account for nearly half of the increase, it added.

Tory opposition spokesman for social care, Cllr Luke Stubbs said government funding in the ciris ‘has to be welcome’ but added: ‘It's no great secret that there has been a bit of a squeeze on adult social care.’

He said without any appetite for higher taxes, there could be no increase in spending.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘Covid-19 has not caused the social care sector to hit crisis point. That point was reached some time ago. As the Kings Fund has warned, five consecutive years of cuts and £7bn funding reductions have left the system on its knees.

‘Add to this a pandemic where government has not done enough to supply PPE, provide a clear strategy for testing and contact tracing or even record the fatalities until recently, and we have an emergency. This is not just affecting vulnerable people using social care services, it is affecting the front line staff .

‘I have long-argued for social care to be adequately funded, better integrated with health and proper recognition of the vital work this sector does for our society. Taking action on this recently, I’ve been liaising with over 50 care providers locally asking for regular updates on their concerns and lobbying government to ensure they have the resources they need.

‘I will continue to work with local services, and Portsmouth Pensioners Association, to ensure that the social care sector and those who receive their services are heard in Westminster.’

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