More than £1 out of every £3 of taxpayers’ cash in Kirklees goes to paying for adult social care, it has been revealed.
Councillors held a debate over what to do about the social care crisis amid the publication of figures showing Kirklees Council spends 35% of its budget – £102m per year – on looking after disabled and elderly adults.
Members were told that it cost between £50,000 and £100,000 per year to look after a disabled adult in a care home.
An elderly person in a care home costs the council about £14,500 a year while offering an hour-a-day home care costs £5,800 per year.
Earlier this year, council leader David Sheard made the bleak prediction that the council would have to stop collecting bins, cutting grass and filling in potholes because it would only be able to afford social care, which he said takes priority over all other frontline services.
In a town hall debate lasting over an hour, councillors differed on what action was needed to solve the growing crisis.
Veteran Labour member, Clr Peter McBride, called for government action.
“This problem isn’t unique to us,” he said. “The measure of a civilised society is how it cares for its old, sick and vulnerable.
“The cost of care is so much our expenditure, unless the government decides to fund it properly we in Kirklees will have no money to do anything other than that.”
But several councillors said throwing money at the service was not the solution.
Kirklees Tory chief, Clr David Hall, said no government over the past 30 years had done anything because it was such a complex issue with the solutions “potentially unpopular.”
Fellow Conservative, Birstall and Birkenshaw’s Clr Liz Smaje, said prevention work had “got lost.”
Independent councillor Edgar Holroyd-Doveton said: “We should reserve some of our resources to facilitate, stimulate and act as catalyst for community activities that help as prevention and not a cure.”
Deputy leader of the Conservatives, Clr John Taylor, said he had been a carer to his late mother and still cared for his disabled brother.
“We need to think about what more we can do in our communities to support people for longer in their own homes,” he said.
But leaders of three parties disagreed and said the huge cash shortage was the main issue.
Green chief, Clr Andrew Cooper, said: “The problem is so huge that if we were given £5m or £10m, would it make any difference?
“We know we’re nowhere near properly funded to deal with this problem and adult social care has an impact on everything we do.
The huge cost of it is putting pressure on everything else we do.
“All these other things mentioned are just tinkering. We’re patently failing to look after our older people.
“The government is distracted from everything other than Brexit.
“We’ve got to put this ahead of £100bn missiles and £50bn HS2 – let’s get this right and get it up the agenda.”
Several Conservative councillors urged that the subject was not used as a “political football.”
Former Tory leader, Clr Robert Light, said: “It can’t be a political football because it’s too damn important.
“I think the issue is so big, it’s bigger than money. It’s about the whole social fabric of how we do things.”
But Lib Dem leader, Clr Nicola Turner, said: “This is political – it’s about who pays. If we’re going to look after people it’s going to cost money.”
Clr Sheard said he didn’t think the “vast majority” of councillors were aware of all the things the council was doing to help the disabled and elderly.
He said: “We should not fall for the myth that we need to be more efficient and that solves the problem.
“We are going to be cutting another £5m or £6m from the service.
“We want to the best, most efficient service we can, whatever government we have.
“But we need the government to solve the problem of funding long term social care.”