Councillor Paulette Hamilton, cabinet member for health and social care, reflects on her meeting with the new under-secretary for community health and care.
In August last year, I wrote to the David Mowat MP, congratulating him on his appointment as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Community Health and Care. I set out concerns that the responsibility for adult social care has moved from Minister of State level to that of under-secretary but welcomed his support in championing adult social care.
I set out the serious pressures that we are facing in Birmingham with increasing demand for social care and with a budget that is cut year after year. I also set out that we had made £590m savings since 2010 and have a further £180m to make by 2020. At the time of writing to David Mowat in August 2016 I informed him that adult social care was declaring a £25m overspend for this current financial year.
I did receive a response in November to my letter agreeing to meet and this meeting finally took place last week on 1 February 2017. I travelled to London to meet David at the Department of Health with a clear agenda on what I wanted out of the meeting: the opportunity to relay first-hand the pressures; open up dialogue; and a chance to lobby for a fairer funding deal for adult social care in Birmingham.
It was a constructive and open meeting with the under-secretary and I was realistic about what I could achieve. I set out our pressures that we are facing in Birmingham, but recognised other local authorities are in a similar position. The government did offer last year a social care precept of 2% last year and in December last year the Government offered a further additional 1% if agreed by local authorities to take effect in the next financial year. I highlighted to David Mowat that this was a further tax on our citizens; and if the city council reluctantly agreed to it, that the amount this will generate is only a sticking plaster and would not meet the demographic pressures we face in Birmingham year on year.
I explained that with the massive cuts being faced by local authorities that many of our prevention services which are not deemed statutory services would be affected. I explained that in our budget consultation one cut that we have proposed was to supporting people services and that this had generated lots of backlash from providers and service users. I explained that during the city’s recent budget consultation we received over 3,000 responses with the top three issues emerging as older adults and disabled people; mental health; and child protection services. I explained that we have had demonstrations on the proposed Supporting People cuts with high turnout and lots of media coverage both locally and nationally. I talked about the short sightedness in cutting edge of crisis support and the lifeline it gives to some of our most vulnerable citizens. I know that the services provided through funds such as Supporting People are really valued by users and partner agencies across the city. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated providers in Birmingham who do a fantastic work in supporting those in a crisis. I also set out that many providers are leaving the care market as they are finding it more and more difficult to operate with current funding levels.
I concluded the meeting knowing that I had made the case for Birmingham; David Mowat MP was clearly aware of the national social care pressures across the country. The only reassurance he offered was a fairer deal in Better Care Funding for the next financial year for local authorities like Birmingham that have a low council tax base. He seemed willing to have further dialogue and also showed an interest in coming to the West Midlands and was open to hosting a national conference to look at the key social care issues local authorities across the UK are facing and to share examples of innovative working. I will keep this line of communication open and will be writing back to David Mowat in the next week to continue to lobby for a fairer deal for adult social care in Birmingham.