Is social care funding rising or falling?
Liz Kendall: "The Government are cutting funding for older people's social care by £1.3 billion."
Andrew Lansley: "More than £7 billion was added to the social care budget as a consequence of the steps taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and by the NHS."
House of Commons, 22 November 2011
The Equality and Human Rights Commission warned yesterday that there was evidence of a "systemic failure" in social care for the elderly, with many papers picking out examples of neglect by social workers.
So is enough money being made available to combat the problem?
At Health Questions in the House of Commons earlier this week Shadow Minister for Care and Older People Liz Kendall accused the Government of cutting the budget for older people's care by over £1 billion.
Responding, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley claimed that care budgets were going up by over £7 billion.
The Minister in charge of Care Services Paul Burstow fleshed this out last month when he noted that "the Government have committed an additional £7.2 billion to support social care over four years up to 2015."
So how much is being made available by the Government for social services?
Last year's Spending Review claims that there will be "£2 billion a year of additional funding to support social care by 2014-15."
If this £2 billion was available for each of the four remaining years of the Parliament, social care budgets would hit £8 billion, above the level mentioned by Mr Lansley and Mr Burstow.
When we contacted the Department of Health they were able to detail how the £7.2 billion figure was arrived at more specifically.
In 2010/11 £1.3 billion was set aside for personal social services, the baseline inherited from the previous spending review period. Between 2011/12 and 2014/15 this is being increased above the amount that would have been available if the £1.3 billion level had been maintained in real terms.
On top of this, additional funding has been made available through the NHS worth £3.8 billion over the next four years. If this total is added to the extra money injected into the personal social services grant, the amount of new money rises to £7.2 billion.
So does this mean that Ms Kendall is mistaken?
Not necessarily. While the Spending Review outlines the money made available by central government for social care, the services themselves are usually delivered by local authorities, and the amounts made available do not always match the sums spent on the ground.
The House of Commons Library was asked by Ms Kendall herself to look into the amounts being spent by local authorities on social services for older people. This reported last month that in 2010/11 councils spent £1.3 billion less in real terms on social care for the elderly than they had in the financial year before the Coalition took office.
These findings have been mirrored elsewhere. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) reported in its Budget Survey 2010/11 that local authorities were reducing adult social care spending this year by £991 million — a 6.9 per cent drop.
Both figures could therefore be accurate, although whether social care spending will rise in future years to substantiate Andrew Lansley's claim in terms of money spent - rather than money "committed" — remains to be seen.
Update: Liz Kendall's team have provided us with the breakdown of the figures given by the House of Commons Library, which in turn is based upon DCLG figures. As the table below shows, although total social care funding has changed little over the past two years in cash terms, in real terms there have been cuts of at least £1.3 billion.