Local authorities fear legal action due to care funding shortfall

1 Feb 17

Local authorities have warned that a series of flagship social care reforms introduced in 2015 will fail unless the government provides a funding boost for services.

The Local Government Association has said today that underfunding of the Care Act – which sets a new minimum eligibility threshold to qualify for care, and outlines plans for more personalised support – meant these changes could not be implemented.

In its submission to the government ahead of the forthcoming Budget, the LGA urged the Treasury to provide a cash boost to rescue the reforms and save local authorities from possible court challenges they could face for failing to meet the care threshold provision, set at ‘substantial’ need.

If there is no additional funding made available by chancellor Philip Hammond on 8 March then ministers must be upfront to the public about the subsequent limitations in care and support, Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing board chair, said.

“The Care Act is a really important piece of legislation which the LGA fully supports,” she stated. “But the intentions and the spirit of the Care Act that aims to help people to live well and independently, are in grave danger of falling apart and failing, unless new funding is announced by government for adult social care.”

She highlighted that in addition to local authorities, charities, care providers and the NHS bodies were fully united in calling for additional money.

“Genuinely new government funding is now the only way to save the Care Act, and to protect the services caring for our elderly and disabled people and ensure they can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives”. This would enable people to “live in their own community and stay out of hospital for longer, reducing the pressures on the NHS,” she added.

Councils are worried about potential legal challenges due to a lack of funds, the LGA warned. This is because the inability of authorities to support people to stay well and live independent lives could constitute a failure in the legislation’s statutory duties.

Just 8% of councils’ adult social care directors say they are confident in their capacity to meet the full responsibilities, according to the latest Association of Directors of Adult Social Services budget survey. Meanwhile, the LGA estimates the overall funding gap facing social care will be at least £2.6bn by 2020.

In its submission, the LGA is also calling on government to set out contingency plans to deal with major failure in the care provider market, highlighting that the lack of funding in the system was already causing some providers to hand contracts back to councils or cease trading altogether.

Following the LGA’s submission, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services also urged the government to inject £1bn of emergency funding into the care system to stave off an impending crisis.

Margaret Willcox, the president elect of ADASS, said social care must be treated as a national priority at the Budget.

“A cumulative total of £5.5bn has been cut from council social care budgets by the end of this financial year. If the huge projected council overspends of £441m cannot be funded from savings in other council services or from reserves, even greater reductions in social care services will follow in the next few months and many councils risk failing to meet their statutory duties.

“Emergency assistance of £1bn – which is at least what all leading sector experts say is needed to fund adult social care next year – and distributed on a needs based formula, will prevent further deterioration whilst working on a longer term solution, and would go some way towards stabilising the system for councils, providers and the NHS,” she stated.

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