Services for elderly and disabled residents are in danger of spiraling into crisis after new analysis reveals a £4.3 billion funding black hole by the end of this decade, social care experts are warning.
The Local Government Association (LGA) which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales and the Association of Directors of Social Services have joined together to highlight that these alarming figures are almost a third of current annual adult social care spending, showing councils as the most stretched part of the health and social care system.
Thousands of older and disabled adults could now be left uncertain about their future care and access to vital services such as home care and meals on wheels.
It is also a stark warning that successful integration of health and social care next year is vital to save the care system from collapsing.
The shortfall is set to be caused by a combination of reduced government funding and rising demand on services, in particular from the country’s rapidly ageing population.
Over the last year alone, councils were forced to divert £900 million funding from other budgets to simply maintain the current level of service, despite making efficiency savings and receiving additional money from the 2010 spending round. The pressures are set to continue and by 2020, councils will have to find £4.3 billion just to manage care services at the current levels.
This comes on top of councils already having saved £3.5 billion from the running of social care services during this Parliament just to deal with demand and cost pressures.
In spite of cuts, local authorities will continue to protect spending on adult social care next year as much as possible, but as the scope for efficiencies lessens and demand continues to gather pace with the ageing population, this could be at the expense of other vital community services like buses, parks and leisure centres.
In just six months, adult social care services will reach a critical point in England with the pooling of funding from councils and the health service through the Better Care Fund (BCF) and the introduction of the Care Act. Councils are already warning that these changes could bring even more additional pressures.
As social care experts are gathering for the biggest social care conference in the country this week, the Chair of the LGA, Cllr David Sparks, is set to call for long term money to be brought into the health and social care system at this year’s. He will say at National Children and Adult Services Conference to make the system sustainable and protect care for future generations. Without an urgent commitment to adequately fund adult social care, councils risk yet more pressures on already stretched budgets which will tip some services into failure.
Cllr David Sparks, said:
“These new figures are further proof that we need to stop vital adult social care services spiralling into a black hole. We must act now to both improve quality of life for people in their older years and steer England’s social care system away from the road to financial ruin.
“It’s not right that councils are taking the biggest hit in the pocket when we compare funding for delivering health and care services. We should all be working together to increase the ambition for a future of integrated health and social care that will deliver the best possible care to those who need it.
“Too many older people are being let down by a system which leaves them languishing in hospital beds while they wait for an alternative, or consigned to residential care because we lack the capacity to help them live independently. This has to stop.
“Councils have worked incredibly hard to prioritise adult social care at a time when councils have had to find over £3.5 billion pounds worth of savings in their adult social care budgets. This has still not been nearly enough to close the funding gap. In just six months, councils are expected to bring in crucial changes to make care better for everyone. The clock is now ticking for government to get the funding right to make sure these do not fail before they have even begun.
“The Government should not be knowingly backing councils into a corner where they have to make impossible decisions about cutting other important services just to continue to manage caring and supporting our most vulnerable. We can’t stress enough the impact this will have on communities, and of course we must start asking the question about what happens when we have made all of the efficiencies and there are no more services to cut.
“Next year will be a make or break moment for adult social care, for local services provided by councils and for the NHS. The next government must make sure that the next spending review puts adult social care on a sustainable financial footing. We can’t afford to waste this once-in-a-generation chance to get it right.”
ADASS President David Pearson, said:
“The next General Election is an important touchstone for the future of adult social care. There are real opportunities ahead of us to realise the full ambitions of the Care Act and to continue to transform services and support to put the individual at the centre.
“The proper funding of adult social care is critical in this and ADASS looks forward to working with LGA to help inform this important national debate.”