The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Who Cares?

By Chris Fletcher - Director of Policy, Research & External Affairs & Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Last week the BBC released the results of a survey looking at how spending on social care will be impacted following the cuts announced in the Government’s spending review.

The survey found that adult social care spending in the North will fall by an estimated 4.7%, whilst in the South it will rise by 2.7%.

That wasn’t the total picture, however, as only about two thirds of all Councils responded and due to some of the complexities around funding allocations, some of the figures were “skewed”. In response, the Government has acknowledged that reform of the system is needed to ensure continuing affordable and sustainable funding for care and support for all adults in the future.

So, what has this got to do with business?

My response: A lot more than you’d think.

I recently attended a meeting of the Chamber’s Care Sector Council made up of Chamber members representing the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester who all run care or residential homes. Whilst there are a number of different types of home and care provision, they all shared one thing in common…….they were all businesses.

They employ staff, they have to watch their costs, battle against increasing energy bills and get to grips with there not just being less money in the system, but some fundamental changes to the system itself. Oh, and also look after those people they have been trusted to care for.

Martin Clark, the Chair of the Sector Council, sums up the issue succinctly: “Within the ten Greater Manchester Councils, all appear to be making cuts to the Adult and Social Care budgets, as well as raising eligibility criteria and increasing charges to customers to use services.

“Independent and voluntary care providers are being told there is no money available to increase the amounts they are given to provide care, even though they face inflationary increases in their operational costs, and an increase in dependency of the people they care for. Some providers have had to fight to even sustain their previous funding with Council officials asking them to accept cuts in their funding, whilst still acknowledging that the costs to provide care have gone up.”

That, I suppose, is the real challenge with this sector – people just assume that all they do is “look after old people” totally oblivious that they feel the strain of economic issues and changes in government policy like any other business, sometimes even more so.

Whilst I’m no expert in care and admire anyone working in this sector, what I can do and what I can make sure the Chamber does, is start to put things on an equal footing so that this important sector gets recognised and treated as it should. Faced with ever increasing financial cuts and rising prices, they cannot as easily expand as other businesses, so they really do have to watch every penny. The landscape that the sector operates in is changing and coming under real scrutiny from both central and local government. At times it must feel like they are in a vice.

So who cares? Well there are a number of people that care passionately and face every day, 24/7, not just the battles that all businesses face, but also the extra pressures of looking after residents or people in need. In uncertain times, they have to offer a sure service.

I think that’s something we should all care about.

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