I have received several copies of the latest 38 degrees email regarding a debate to be held on Monday 27th February.
 
The funding of health and social care is - as the pre-written email says - crucial, however it is important to point out that the debate is a general debate that is unlikely to lead to a vote. Unfortunately I am tied up on Select Committee business on Monday, so will not be able to attend, however this should not be taken as a reflection of the importance of the issue in my priorities. The Select Committee business was scheduled long before the debate.  
 
I raised the issue of funding long-term social care in my newspaper column several weeks ago, when I said that we needed to look at ways it could be funded and I was interested in people's views on possible solutions. My view is that we should revisit our commitment to international aid and ask ourselves whether we can afford to maintain the present 0.7% commitment. This could be unpopular and possibly controversial, however I think with social care costs escalating , we have to look at all ways of funding it.
 
I do know that the Government recognises the current pressures facing local areas, so the Government is giving local authorities additional funding and flexibility to enable them to have access to an additional £3.5 billion by 2020, providing a real terms increase in funding by the end of this Parliament.  On 15 December last year, the Government announced greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so that local authorities can choose to raise extra money. Savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million, will be retained by councils for social care. Taken together, this means almost an additional £900 million will be made available over the next two years.
 
Money alone will not fix the problem and the Government is clear that far-reaching reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. Some councils are already providing high quality social care within their existing budgets, showing that reform can be achieved and half of all delayed discharges from hospital to home arise in just 24 local authorities. The Communities Secretary, Health Secretary and others across Government will work to ensure that long-term we have a sustainable system of social care for everyone that needs it.
 
Given the interest in this matter, I am sure it will be something that will come up at one of my new Friday Round Tables, and I hope that some of the senders of the 38 degrees emails will be able to attend.


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