Social care fund must prove its worth: Janet Finch-Saunders reacts to Audit Office report

Shadow Minister for Social Care, Janet Finch-Saunders, has commented on a Wales Audit Office report, published yesterday, which claims that a £385million Welsh Government fund must be clearer about how it benefits users.

The Welsh Government’s Integrated Care Fund was set up in 2014 with the aim of supporting older people, and it has since been extended to encompass care across all ages and several complex needs. However, five years on, Wales’ Auditor General Adrian Crompton has said the overall impact of the fund on improving life for service users remains unclear.

It comes in the week that Mrs Finch-Saunders met with more than 30 key social care stakeholders from across Wales in the National Assembly, to listen to what changes they’d like to see in the sector.

One of the largest topics of conversation centred around a persistent lack of integration between services – one of the aims of the Integrated Care Fund – and the need for improved data sharing between health boards, local authorities, Care Inspectorate Wales, and care homes.

The Shadow Minister has warned that, despite having positive merits, the fund’s price-tag and the vital nature of the care sector means its performance must be closely examined by the Welsh Government.

As part of a wave of panels for the Shadow Cabinet, Mrs Finch-Saunders took the opportunity this week to discuss with stakeholders key topics on recruitment and upskilling of Welsh care staff, the work of regional and public service boards, and crucially, suitable models for the funding of social care.

We also heard from Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, on this topic this week, with an update on the government’s plans for how the people of Wales will pay for the social care they may need in later life.

Mrs Finch-Saunders has warned against the Welsh Government’s indicated favouring of an age-related insurance-style tax, with the higher amounts asked of people aged between 57 and 59; a point when earnings tend to decrease.

By comparison, the UK Government is set to introduce a Green Paper, which will look at the delivery of adult social care as a whole; not just the elderly and not just on its financing. It will seek to create market stabilisation for care homes, integration of health and social care, specialised housing, as well as supporting carers and the social care workforce.

Commenting, Mrs Finch-Saunders said:

“While I’m pleased to note that the Welsh Government is addressing the need for future planning around funding for social care, we should certainly not be looking at an age-related tax where people are penalised unfairly.

“As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and The Health Foundation have noted, while much of the public discussion about the organisation and funding of social care centres upon care for individuals in old age, publicly funded social care is used by individuals of all ages and, in fact, only a minority goes on those aged 65 and over.

“The Welsh Government must be much more aware of how they spend their precious resources to make sure they go to the people most in need, rather than wasting millions on a fund which doesn’t seem to be doing a lot”.