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Pressures increase on adult social care services

Pressures on adult social care in England are constantly increasing, but the government ‘does not’ know the capacity limits of the system, a National Audit Office report has revealed.

It also stated that major changes to the system to improve outcomes and reduce costs would be challenging to achieve.

The research, the first of a series of reports on the adult care system, highlighted that increasing pressures on the system include adults with long-term and multiple health conditions and disabilities living longer; demand for services rising while public spending falls; and there being an unmet need for care.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office (NAO), said: “Adult social care, including care of an ageing population, is one of the big issues we face at present.

“It is important to understand this in the context of the wider healthcare system of acute and primary care. There are no easy answers, but we need to think clearly and in a joined-up way about the predictable and growing challenges in years to come.”

It was stated that while the need for care continues to rise, local authorities’ spending on adult social care fell by 8% in real terms between 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The NAO has warned that, while the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government are working together to understand the cumulative implications of changes to, and reduced spending on, health and social care, welfare and related local services, other departments are not. For example, changes to benefits for adults with disabilities and their carers will put further strain on care users’ ability to pay for their own care and for informal carers to provide support.

Earlier this week, councils and the Care and Support Alliance warned of a £135m shortfall in new money being given to local authorities to implement the government’s Care Bill.

They stated that Better Care Fund (BCF) money earmarked for joint work between health and social care would instead have to be spent on introducing carers' assessments, implementing safeguarding boards and setting new eligibility criteria.

The BCF and the Care Bill have been described as having the potential to “transform” services for the benefit of individuals and local government. But central government is reducing that potential by part-funding one with the other, and forcing local areas to make difficult choices between implementing the Care Bill and progressing valuable joint working.

In the current Parliament, local government's core funding is estimated to have fallen by 40% and councils have made £20bn worth of savings. As a result, councils have had to reduce adult social care budgets by £2.68bn over the last three years.

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