Social care funding gap to reach £2.8bn by 2019-20, report finds

16 Sep 16

Cuts to adult social care have left the system increasingly unable to meet the needs of the older people who depend on it, with the funding gap set to reach at least £2.8bn by the end of the decade, according to The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.

Six years of cuts to local authority budgets have seen 26% fewer people receive help, according to the Social care for older people: Home truths report. In addition, rising demand for services and staff shortages had led to a “failing system that leaves older people, their families and carers to pick up the pieces.”

The £2.8bn funding gap forecast for 2019-20 will result from public spending on adult social care shrinks to less than 1% of gross domestic product. The groups called on the forthcoming Autumn Statement to recognise the scale of the pressures facing the sector by bringing forward Better Care Funding planned from 2018-19 as well as accelerating progress toward establishing a single pooled budget for health and social care in all areas by 2020.

According to Richard Humphries, assistant director of policy at The King’s Fund, putting this right would be a key test of the Theresa May’s promise of a more equal country that works for everyone. “There is no more burning injustice in Britain today than older people being denied the care they need to live with independence and dignity,” he said.

The report found that the care and support people receive was increasingly dependent on where they live and how much money they have, with poorer people relying on a “threadbare safety net” comprised of relatives, volunteers and links in the local community. This is placing an unacceptable burden on unpaid carers and is leaving rising numbers of older people who have difficulty washing, dressing and getting out of bed, without any support at all.

Although local authorities had done their best to accommodate budget cuts, this has often been achieved by freezing or reducing care providers’ fees, many of which had gone out of business due to diminishing profit margins and further cost pressures, such as the introduction of the National Living Wage this year. As a result, more people are having to pay for their own care – and the possibility of large-scale provider failures was now a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’.

Responding to the report, Izzi Seccombe, the chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said it confirmed social care was at “crisis point”. She said the need to tackle the issue was acknowledged by the government in its decision announced in last year’s Autumn Statement to allow councils to raise council tax by 2% to pay for adult social care in 2016/17.

However, Ray James, immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said this option alone would not plug the funding gaps. He explained it would account for less than two-thirds of the £600m that was needed to cover labour cost increases from the introduction of the National Living Wage.

“That means that this year, directors are left with a gap to fill of around £940m just to keep services operating at last year’s levels,” he added.

Jane Payling, CIPFA’s head of healthcare and integration, called for an independent commission to link health funding to GDP, which would commit the government to a minimum spending levels.

“Pledging a minimum 10% of GDP would reduce the unpredictability of politically-driven funding decisions, while relating spending logically to what the country can afford,” she said.

 She also urged the government to protect the rights of EU staff working in social care. Without their significant contribution, she said, local authorities and social care will be faced with staff shortages, making it even less likely they would be able to meet communities’ needs.

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