Social care precept ‘insufficient’ to halt ongoing service cuts
Social care is facing a serious funding crisis despite the new council tax precept, this year’s Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) report warns.
The survey shows that in the past year, 93% of councils implemented the social care precept, of whom 60% raised the maximum 1.99%.
Despite this, it raised just £380m, which isn’t even sufficient to cover the £520m of extra costs generated by the National Living Wage. In total, the report said that an extra £1.1bn is needed to maintain social care at its current level.
Harold Bodmer, president of ADASS, said: “We have been arguing for some time now that adult social care needs to be given the same protection and investment as the NHS. Services are already being cut, and 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 showed that although social care funding experienced a 1.2% increase in real terms in the past year, there was a wide variation among councils, with 70 out of 151 councils experiencing a decrease in funding.
To meet the overspend on social care in the past year, 62 councils had used council reserves and 52 had underspent on other departments.
It also found directors of social services expect the financial situation to get worse. Only 31% of directors were fully confident in their ability to make the needed savings this year, and this fell to 2% who predicted they would make the savings in 2019-20.
Similarly, only 36% were ‘fully confident’ in their ability to meet their statutory duties in 2016-17 and this fell to 2% by 2019-20.
Overall local government spending is expected to fall by £0.9bn in the next year.
Cllr Nick Forbes, senior vice chair of the LGA, said: “Councils will continue to do all they can to maintain the services that older and vulnerable people rely on but there is little scope left for further efficiencies to be made.
“The growing demand of our ageing population, as well as increasing costs following the introduction of the National Living Wage, are squeezing care home and domiciliary care providers to the point of collapse. A lack of funding is already leading to providers pulling out of the publicly-funded care market and shifting their attention towards people who are able to fully fund their own care.
“It cannot be solely left to local council taxpayers to fix our chronically underfunded social care system. Councils, care providers, charities and the NHS are all united around the need for central government to fully fund adult social care as this is vital to ensure our loved ones enjoy the dignified and independent quality of life they deserve.”
He called, again, on the government to bring forward £700m from the Better Care Fund from the end of the decade, which the Department of Health has refused to do for this year.
The LGA also warned earlier this year that social care funding is already “at breaking point” despite the council tax precept.
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “With an ageing population, the continued downward pressure on adult social care spending is unsustainable and is already leaving hundreds of thousands of people without even the most basic support.
“Urgent and significant investment in social care is needed not only to stop the strain on families but also to reverse the potentially devastating repercussions for the NHS and the viability of care providers that support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Carer’s UK’s State of Caring 2016 report found that one in five carers receive no practical support, despite the passing of the Care Act last year.
Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund, said: “Our assessment of these findings is that the immediate prospects for the social care system, on which older and disabled people depend, are grave and deteriorating.
“The diminishing confidence that local authorities can meet their most basic legal duties to provide care for the most vulnerable citizens should be a huge source of public concern.”
But a Department of Health spokesperson said the social care precept was intended to generate increased revenue over time and to reach £2bn by 2019-20.
They added: “We know that protecting services whilst delivering necessary efficiencies is challenging, which is why we are working with the local government and ADASS to support councils to make savings.”
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