Councils spending higher proportion of budgets on social care

13 Jun 18

English councils are allocating larger proportions of their budget to adult social care while spending less on the area in real terms, according to two reports.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services annual budget survey found adult social care now accounted for 38% of total spends for councils in England.

Forty-eight councils had experienced providers closing or ceasing to trade in the last six months, out of the 152 English councils of 155 with adult social care responsibility that responded to the survey.

The Institute for Fiscal studies think-tank released analysis of government figures today showing councils in England’s spending on adult social care fell by 10% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15.

Social care has risen as a share of local authority service spending – excluding education and public health – from 34% in 2009–10 to 41% in 2017–18, the IFS found.

Adass also reported providers had handed back contracts to provide adult social care services to 44 councils and 78% of councils were concerned about their ability to meet their statutory duty to ensure care market stability.

Glen Garrod, president of Adass, said: “This means that people do not have the choice over the care that they should have and the potential to transform lives is being lost.

“There is an undeniable, urgent and imperative requirement on the government to act to ensure interim funding continues until the [social care] green paper is implemented, that the social care workforces receives the wages and esteem it deserves, that the care market is safeguarded, and that the long-term funding solution that social care desperately needs is finally delivered.”

The adult social care green paper is due out this summer

Of the councils who increased their precepts to cover social care, 92% told Adass they were doing so just to cover their costs.

The IFS noted councils had chosen to protect social care relative to other service areas but spending on the area was now 9% lower per person in 2017-18 than in 2009-10.  

It also found thirty councils with the highest levels of deprivation had made cuts to adult social care of 17% per person. This was compared to the 3% per person cut to adult social care in the thirty areas with the lowest levels of deprivation.

Polly Simpson, IFS research economist, and an author of the briefing note, said: “After five years of cuts, adult social care spending is on the increase.

“This has been made possible by new ring-fenced grants from central government, and councils raising more tax locally through the social care precept.

“However, spending per person is still lower than in 2009-10, at a time when more people are living with disabilities and demographic change is pushing up demand for care services.”

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman called for the social care green paper to recognise the pressure social services are under, adding: “Otherwise, the social care system will remain on its knees.”

He said a “radical shake up to the way the sector is funded” was needed.

David Williams, spokesman for health and social care at the County Councils Network, said the Adass survey was a “stark example of the fragility of social care services”.

“Faced with a potent mixture of rising demand and inadequate funding, we will do all we can to transform services and effectively manage our budgets.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils and providers are doing all they can to help ensure older and disabled people receive high quality care, but unless immediate action is taken to tackle increasingly overstretched council budgets, the adult social care tipping point, which we have long warned about, will be breached and councils risk not being able to fulfil their statutory duty under the Care Act.”

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Despite the challenges, the solutions are far from straightforward.”

She said funding increases of at least 3.9% a year were needed or “more vulnerable people will suffer”.

The NHS Confederation released the results of an Ipsos Mori poll today, which showed 82% of 1,000 British adults supported a 3.9% annual increase in social care with 77% backing a 4% increase every year over the next 15 years for healthcare.

In March, prime minister Theresa May promised to deliver multi-year funding for the NHS and “move away” from the “annual approach” to the health service budget.

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