Almost all councils (98 per cent) responding to a Local Government Association survey on the Government’s adult social care reform agenda say they do not have confidence that the funding earmarked for the reforms is sufficient.
Concerns have grown among councils in recent months that the Government’s adult social care charging reforms are potentially hugely underfunded, which will risk their implementation as well as exacerbating existing pressures on the system.
Of the £36 billion the new UK-wide health and social levy will raise over the next three years, only £5.4 billion is ringfenced for social care reforms in England. These include the introduction of a ‘fair rate of care’ that councils will pay providers and tackling the issue of self-funders paying more for their care than those who access support at the council rate.
The survey of senior councillors responsible for adult social care across the country, ahead of the start of the LGA’s Annual Conference in Harrogate tomorrow, also found three quarters of responding councils said that they are not confident they will have the required capacity in frontline staff to deliver the reforms.
The LGA is warning that underfunded reforms will exacerbate significant ongoing financial and workforce pressures, including significant vacancy rates across the sector. These have already led to over 500,000 people waiting for an assessment, care or care reviews - up from just under 400,000 in November
Unless action is taken and government rethinks its plans, people who draw on care may experience reductions in quality and availability of care and support services, while at the same time paying more for them through the new health and social care levy and increased council tax.
If the reforms do end up costing more, and there is no further resource from government, councils also indicated concern in the survey that other council services may be negatively impacted in order to make up for the shortfall.
At its heart, adult social care reform must better enable people who draw on social care to live an equal life and a better life. the findings of this survey cast serious doubt on whether the Government’s plans will enable councils to deliver on these objectives.
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board said:
“This survey lays bare the huge concerns of councils that the Government’s charging reforms are significantly underfunded. This has the potential to tip councils over the financial edge.
“Underfunding these reforms will only exacerbate pre-existing significant pressures, which the reforms – and the funding for them – do nothing to address. These include unmet and under-met need, greater strain on unpaid carers and increased waiting times for assessments and delivery of care packages.
“A higher proportion of the health and social care levy needs to be spent on social care to tackle these issues and create stable foundations for these reforms. Councils are stretched thin as it is, and my colleagues across the county have highlighted how many of their council services could be impacted by the cost of these reforms.
“Local government is seeking immediate assurances that the Government will underwrite any additional costs councils incur and will work with councils as a matter of urgency to consider further mitigations that may need to be used if funding, capacity and timescale pressures threaten implementation.”
In June 2022 the LGA conducted an online survey of councillors with overall responsibility for adult social care across all councils in England. The survey was sent to the lead councillor in all 152 English councils with responsibility for adult social care. A total of 80 councillors replied, giving a response rate of 53 per cent. The results were weighted to make them representative of authority type and region. The full report of this research will be published shortly.