Councils savage DCLG’s “hugely disappointing” social care funding plan

Local Government Association says measures announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid are “nowhere near enough” to alleviate pressure on key services


By Jim Dunton

15 Dec 2016

Government proposals to help alleviate the funding crisis for England’s social care services by sanctioning early council tax rises and reallocating funding incentives for housebuilding have been attacked as inadequate by local authorities.

The funding package, announced by communities secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday in the latest provisional Local Government Funding Settlement, creates a new £240m dedicated grant to fund adult social care services paid for from a scaling back of the New Homes Bonus also paid to councils.

As widely trailed, the 152 English local authorities responsible for delivering adult social care services such as home care for vulnerable residents, have been given the green light to increase Council Tax by 3% next year and in 2018-19 if that extra income is spent on care services. The move would potentially add a total of £652m to fund services over the two financial years, and almost £900m in combination with the Council Tax measures.

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But lobby group the Local Government Association, which speaks for the vast majority of England’s councils, said the measures were “nowhere near enough” to cover an anticipated social care funding shortfall of £2.6bn by 2020. Professional organisation the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, meanwhile, dismissed the package as “woefully inadequate”.

Conservative peer Lord Gary Porter, who is chairman of the LGA, said the government had heard the growing calls for support for social care but failed to come up with any long-term solutions. 

"Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers have been clear both before and since the Autumn Statement about the need for an urgent injection of genuinely new additional government funding to protect services caring for elderly and disabled people,” he said. 

“Given this unified call for action, it is hugely disappointing that today's settlement has failed to find any of this new money to tackle the growing crisis in social care.”

Lord Porter said increasing the amount of revenue councils could raise from residents to fund services would provide a short-term boost, but would also come at the expense of local households.

"Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020,” he said. 

“Council tax rises will not be enough to prevent the need for continued cutbacks to social care services and very many other valued local services. 

“Already planned further £2.2 billion cuts to Revenue Support Grant to councils next year will far exceed the benefit of any extra council tax income.”

Lord Porter called for “an urgent and fundamental review of social care and health” before next year's Spring Budget, aimed at properly funding services and relieving pressure on hospital services.

Ray James, immediate past president of ADASS – which represents the most senior council officers responsible for delivering social care services for adults – said the Department for Communities and Local Government’s funding package was at least £1bn short of what was required.

“We welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the need to address the crisis in social care funding but the amount brought forward for 2017/18 is woefully inadequate,” he said.

“It is over £1bn less than all leading sector experts – King’s Fund, LGA and Nuffield Trust - say is needed to fund adult social care next year and the precept raises less in areas with the greatest need,” he said.

“There is no extra money for councils during this parliament and ADASS would welcome sight of how government have satisfied themselves about the adequacy of this settlement for 2017/18 given the widely acknowledged increases in the demand for and cost of social care.”

James said the settlement was “not sufficient to stabilise a care market in crisis” and would not ease staff recruitment problems or pressure on hospitals because it did not bring in any genuinely new government money.

“This is now the only way to protect the services caring for our elderly and disabled people, which are at breaking point, and ensure they can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives, live in their own community and stay out of hospital for longer,” he said.

Unveiling the proposals in parliament earlier, Javid said the government did not believe that more money was “the only answer” to improving social care services or reducing the phenomenon of “bed blocking”, or Delayed Transfers of Care.

“There is variation in performance across the country that cannot be explained by different levels of spending,” he said.

“Some areas have virtually no Delayed Transfers of Care from hospital. But there is a 20-fold difference between the best and worst performing 10% of areas.”

Javid said greater progress on integrating council-funded social care services and nationally funded health services was vital for improving outcomes and making funding go further.

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