The Public Accounts Committee has raised fresh concerns about the cost burdens on councils and the impact of cuts in its latest report on the Care Act reforms.
The Committee believes “carers and the people they care for may not get the services they need because of continuing reductions to local authority budgets and demand for care being so uncertain”.
It is concerned the New Burdens Doctrine – the Government’s commitment to assess and fund extra costs for local authorities from introducing new powers, duties and other government-initiated changes – does not guarantee funding for significant new costs.
The Committee finds Government “has not been sufficiently open and transparent” in classifying new burdens, creating “considerable uncertainty” for councils. It also expresses concern over Government response times when councils run into difficulties implementing the Act.
The Report states: “The Care Act is one new area of work for local authorities which will add significant costs locally. Government must recognise this and ensure funding is monitored as it beds in so that carers and the people they care for do not lose out.”
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:
“The Care Act should mean carers get proper support from local councils, but with budgets squeezed this support will be hard for councils to deliver.
Local government is taking on more and more responsibilities from central government, but the money does not always follow. The concept of ‘new burdens’ is simple enough yet the Government’s definition of these burdens fails to reflect reality.
If new costs to councils are not adequately funded then services will suffer. There is also a real danger of cost-shunting – in this instance, costs of providing care falling on other public services, carers or the people being cared for.
This is an issue of concern to the Committee across public services and we will continue to monitor how the Government funds local government.”
Commenting on the Report Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, who represent independent social care providers said:
“The objectives of the Care Act are being seriously undermined by the fact that the Government has not delivered enough money to be able to provide a stable and diverse care market, and what money they have delivered has been back loaded. It is simply not enough to meet either current or future needs. The care system is in crisis and the impacts will be felt by citizens, the NHS and the wider economy.”
The Report follows the Committee’s inquiry into the implementation of the first phase of the Care Act, which places additional cost burdens on local councils. Care England supports Meg Hillier MP’s, Chair of the PAC, recommendations to Government to include measures to ensure effective implementation of the Care Act and, more broadly, to ensure that councils have sufficient resources to meet their statutory duties.
Martin Green continued:
“There is a real and immediate crisis in social care with many organisations facing an uncertain future”.