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Councils' social care budgets at 'tipping point' with black hole of £940m

Article By: Sue Learner, Editor

Local authorities’ social care budgets need an extra £940m just to keep services operating at the same levels as last year, according to a new report.

The 2016 Budget survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has revealed that the policy of charging extra council tax to pay for social care has failed to raise enough money to cover the cost of the new National Living Wage (NLW), let alone address the huge shortfall in funding in the face of increasing demand.

The precept, introduced in the Autumn Statement 2015 to give councils the option to raise council tax by two per cent for adult social care, will in fact generate less than two thirds of the £600m needed to cover the NLW this year.

Harold Bodmer, president of ADASS, said: “Councils are working hard to protect adult social services budgets, with adult social care accounting for 35 per cent of council spending for the third year running. However, with more people needing support and having increasingly complex needs, the impact of the welcome national living wage, and other cost pressures, fewer people are getting help, and councils are having to make reductions which will impact on people who receive care.”

He added that local authorities should be investing more money “in prevention to reduce future demand, but with funding under such pressure and diverted to those with greatest and immediate need – those that we have a statutory duty towards – the opportunity to do that is being taken away”.

Social care needs same investment and protection as NHS

He reiterated that adult social care needs to be given the same protection and investment as the NHS and said: “The outlook for future care is bleak. We’re at a tipping point where social care is in jeopardy, and unless the Government addresses the chronic underfunding of the sector, there will be worrying consequences for the NHS and, most importantly, older and disabled people, their families and carers.”

The survey of 151 adult social services directors in England found that the overall budget for adult social services has risen slightly from last year due to the precept, from £13.65bn to £13.82bn, but there is wide variation between individual councils, with 70 of 151 reporting a fall in budgets. A total of 62 councils needed to draw on reserves last year to fund budget shortfalls, while 52 had to cut services to balance budgets.

Care providers facing financial problems

The survey also revealed that 80 per cent of directors reported that care providers, both care home owners and home care providers were facing financial difficulties and closing care homes or handing back contracts to councils, affecting thousands of people, despite 82 per cent of councils increasing fees to providers.

The survey was carried out before the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, with Mr Bodmer saying “ADASS will be closely monitoring the potential impact of the referendum result on the economy and funding of adult social services, and we’ve extended our support to the 80,000 EU staff who are providing care to people right across the country, every day.

“While these may be uncertain times, the most important thing to remember is that people’s needs for care won’t stop. We still have a responsibility to make sure people are getting the support they need to live independent, valuable lives, and to plan ahead as best we possibly can.”

Dr Rhidian Hughes, head of VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group), responded to the survey by saying its findings suggest “the future funding for adult social care is very bleak”

'Continual underfunding of services'

“Year on year the authoritative analysis from ADASS highlights the continual underfunding of services as cuts are made and unmet need rises.

“This year is the worst of times for our sector. Services have been cut back to the bone, and the current position of some councils – forced to use reserves to prop up essential services – is clearly unsustainable”.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care providers, called for directors of adult social services to “have the confidence and thus resources to be able to plan and deliver for the weeks, months and years ahead.

“The social care precept delivered in the Chancellor’s Comprehensive Spending Review has raised less than two thirds of the calculated costs of the National Living Wage. Its implementation is patchy around the country and it is abundantly clear that the investment in social care is not there. This in turn impacts on the millions of people needing care and support; furthermore it has a knock on effect on the efficacy of the NHS.”

'Crisis facing future of social care'

The figures from the ADASS survey “underline just how severe the risk is to the future of this vital public service”, said Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, the older people’s charity.

“The Government’s attempt to plug the gap using the social care precept has been less than a sticking plaster, and hasn’t even covered the cost of the new National Living Wage. Amid all the political turmoil, we cannot lose sight of this issue. The crisis facing the future of social care in this country must be at the top of Theresa May’s in-tray,” she added.

Older and disabled will miss out on services they 'desperately need'

The national deafblind charity, Sense, highlighted a worrying statistic in the ADASS report, that only eight per cent of directors of adult social care were confident that they would be able to meet their statutory duties next year.

Kate Fitch, head of public policy at Sense said: “When local authorities are unable to fund appropriate care it will lead to many older and disabled people missing out on the services they desperately need for day-to-day life. Inadequate social care has a knock on effect and results in further demands on the NHS. For example, the deafblind people we support can become more susceptible to falls or require hospital treatment because they didn’t get the support they needed from social care.

“It is vital that the Government heeds the warnings in this report and release enough funds for local authorities to provide the right level of social care support and reduce the burden on the NHS.”

To view the report go to


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