This was largely as a consequence the Chancellor failing to address funding in the Autumn Statement, and the subsequent volte-face in announcing the bringing forward of funding through the social care precept over the next two years. Whilst additional funding is welcome, the response has been mixed, with many commentators taking the view that this is a sticking plaster which failed to address the fundamental changes required.
Amongst all this, the announcement of the CMA Market Study of Care Homes slipped in largely under the radar in early December. Yet I believe it is the CMA process which might potentially lead to the biggest shake-up of the sector for some time.
The language of the Statement of Scope is direct, in that the CMA does not consider itself a policy maker and will not therefore be commenting on public expenditure levels or how local authorities prioritise budgets. Their focus will be firmly on consumer protection issues and as such, it is difficult to imagine they will not pay close attention to the disparity between self-funded fee levels and local authority fee levels, particularly for those receiving care in the same environment. The full report is due within 12 months, although the sector will be waiting keenly for the interim report due after 6 months. This will give us an indication as to whether the CMA is likely to take any “further action” they remind us is within their remit.
With funding remaining firmly top of the agenda, and the CMA review underway, 2017 promises to be yet another interesting year in social care.
Ian Wilkie - January 2017