(Title Image: BBC Wales)
16% of care homes in Wales could close
Shadow Social Care Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy), was alarmed that a survey of Welsh care homes found that 16% of them are expecting to close within five years, while the number of care home beds has also fallen by 247 since 2014-15.
Funding was a key issue, with the chair of Care Forum Wales saying 80% of care providers were finding it difficult to attract and retain staff. She went on to accuse the Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards of under-funding care homes.
Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North), acknowledged that this was an area of concern for the government.
“….we are encouraging local authorities to consider taking more care homes in-house. We also are looking to see if we can develop co-operative models. So, we are looking at the care home system in a wider way. We’re also trying to encourage (sic) the status of those working in care homes. For example, we’ve had a big campaign to try to attract more workers into the care section, stressing the importance of qualifications, and how to develop.”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan
Additional funding has also been provided to the care system to cover the cost of employing staff on the living wage.
Paying for social care
Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) said that to get the best value for money, spending in both health and social care has to be properly planned. Local authority budgets – used for social care – have been cut to fund increases to health spending. We would baulk at people being handed large bills to receive health care, yet act as though allowing people to keep £50,000 of their own money (when they need social care) instead of £30,000 is generous.
“Would you therefore not agree that the Welsh Government proposal to introduce a social care levy, without any guarantees that this would lead to the eradication of social care charges, is unfair, and a missed opportunity to put health and social care on an equal financial footing?”
– Dr Dai Lloyd AM
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), told AMs that part of the health budget has been put back into social care. The social care system was still means-tested and the social care levy was one way to fund it in the future after ten years of austerity.
Welsh citizens have more generous levels of social care support from the government than England. The Welsh Government nevertheless has limited powers to use general taxation (or something bolder) to deal with the issue – raising the prospect that taxes could rise across the whole UK to pay for social care.
Supporting contaminated blood victims
Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) picked up BBC reports of a victim of the NHS contaminated blood scandal from Caerphilly who was receiving £10,000 a year less than victims in England. As this happened before devolution, there’s an acceptance the UK Government should be responsible for support and he asked what the Minister was doing to resolve the matter?
The Minister agreed there was an expectation that the UK Government would continue in their responsibilities towards victims despite devolution. The payment system in England was also announced without any discussions with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Minister thought it was sensible to avoid an “annual competition” between the governments and for the four nations to work on a single support system. A meeting between representatives of the four governments has been pencilled in for the summer recess.