Social service chiefs warn over Care Act costs

10 Apr 15

Directors of adult social services have warned that a funding deal is not yet in place to implement the government’s flagship reforms to care provision, despite new duties coming into force today.

Under the Care Act, a new national minimum eligibility threshold to qualify for care has been set for all local authorities, based on substantial need, while requirements to increase the personalisation of support have also been introduced.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the legislation represents ‘probably the most significant development in services for older and disabled people since the implementation of the Beveridge Report in 1948’.

President David Pearson said the intervening years have seen vast social changes, particularly in the roles of women and societal attitudes generally towards disability and disabled people, as well as increasing longevity. The Act will help bring social services into the 21st century, he stated, by ensuring a ‘strategic shift from welfare services to services organised around wellbeing and personalisation’.

However, Pearson added that local authorities have ‘still not fully agreed with central government the additional costs that we shall have to incur in order to implement the legislation fully and successfully’. The success of the legislation will hinge on the closure of an estimated £4.3bn funding gap between now and 2020, he suggested.

‘But ongoing discussions about these issues should not detract from the importance of the 2014 Act, the significant changes it will cause in our services, and the important benefits it will bring older people and adults with disabilities in the coming years and decades,’ he said.

Other responsibilities for local authorities from today include a requirement to provide advice on care services, and a duty to develop a sustainable, diverse and improving care market with providers. Care assessments will also need to be conducted ahead of the introduction of a £72,000 cap on care costs, which will be implemented in a second part of the legislation from April 2016.

The Local Government Association also warned today that funding for the duties contained in the Act could fall as much as £50m short of costs in the first year alone.

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said the legislation has the potential to substantially improve the care and support that older people, individuals with disabilities and their carers receive.

‘Councils have worked hard to be prepared for the reforms, but we remain concerned that the changes are underfunded by as much as £50m in the first year alone,’ Seccombe added. ‘We need a care system that is fit for the 21st century, which is why any new government that is serious about providing the best care for people must invest money in protecting a system which will be there to look after people now and in the future.’

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