Care home bosses are urging the Welsh Government to use its £200 million Budget windfall to boost the crisis-hit social care sector in Wales.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond earmarked an extra £2 billion for social care in England.
As a result of the so-called Barnett Formula which divvies up the cash for the rest of the UK, Wales should be getting an additional £200 million based on increases in England on social care and other devolved areas such as education.
But it is up to the Welsh Government how and where the money is going to be spent.
Mary Wimbury, the senior policy advisor for Care Forum Wales, the influential body representing over 450 care homes, nursing homes and other independent health and social care providers across Wales, said: “The £2 billion mentioned in the budget by the Chancellor is specifically for England.
“Although he also promised an extra £200 million in consequential funding for the devolved Welsh Government over the next four years under the Barnett Formula, this can be spent on any devolved area and none of it is specifically earmarked for the care sector.
“There’s a big question mark over exactly how much of this money will go into social care but we are calling for it to be ring-fenced for this purpose.
“Care Forum Wales is strongly making the case that social care in Wales is currently in crisis and desperately needs extra money putting into it.
“People are now living longer demand for social care is increasing all the time and the needs of those going into care are becoming greater.
“The sector is also struggling with a significant number of care homes closing and local authorities are trying to get people to deliver care packages which they are just unable to do.
“We all want to see care sector staff being properly rewarded but just to meet the costs of the minimum wage increase to the sector for 2016/17 and 2017/18 we need £80 million.
“The increases we’ve seen in the minimum wage over the past few years haven’t been reflected in the fees paid by local authorities and health boards to the providers of care homes and domiciliary care.”
“In Wales we’re also seeing an increasing number of highly dependent people, with many needing two people to get them out of bed or take them to the toilet and needing help with feeding or dressing.
“Social care should be treated as a sector of national strategic importance.
“The NHS is under huge pressure, care home beds are being lost across Wales because of inadequate funding, there’s a chronic shortage of nurses and both care homes and domiciliary care companies are having massive recruitment problems.
“It’s creating the environment where it is highly unlikely there will be many new care homes built in the future because the figures just don’t stack up unless it’s in an area where they can attract private payers of whom there are relatively few in Wales..
“On top of everything else, the issue of paying staff the living wage is looming large. There’s absolutely no doubt that social care workers deserve the living wage and more but nobody has answered the question how it’s going to be funded.
“Introducing the national living wage over the next four years is going to represent a 30 per cent increase for many workers. This will ramp up all pay rates across the sector and this will have to be paid for.
“Most industries are able to pass such increases on to the customer. However, the overwhelming majority of people in care homes in Wales are supported by local authorities, and health boards who have their own difficulties. That means there is just no money to pay these increases. Something has got to give and I’m afraid it will plunge the social care sector into an even deeper crisis.
“Things are bad enough as they are with care and nursing homes and domiciliary care agencies closing because they are no longer viable and the evidence is plain for all to see.
“Society has to wake up to the fact that the social care in Wales should be a very positive economic contribution, not a purely negative one. Social care doesn’t only provide the vital services that define our society but also real jobs with wages spent in communities across Wales and care that enables other people to work knowing their loved ones are well looked after.
“Care Forum Wales is putting pressure on the Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards to increase the fees they pay for social care and now we know Wales is getting more money in the budget we will be telling them we want to see it set aside for the benefit of our sector.”