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LGA - Dignified care for elderly and disabled at risk due to lack of funding, councils warn

Local government leaders and directors of adult social care have warned that the ability of councils to provide dignified care for people in old age or for those with a disability is at risk unless urgent steps are taken to plug the burgeoning gap in social care funding.

In a joint submission to the Government's Spending Review, the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) say part of the solution would be to use money previously earmarked for delayed Care Act proposals to help close the funding gap. However, this still leaves adult social care facing an estimated £1.7 billion funding gap by 2019/20.

The current combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and extra costs mean that adult social care is facing a funding gap that is growing by at least £700 million a year, estimated to reach £2.9 billion by the end of the decade, even before the cost of the National Living Wage is taken into account in full.

The failure to properly fund services for elderly and disabled people is already leaving councils having to severely strip back or axe other key services. It also means there is less money to properly recruit, train and keep the best staff and risks essential residential and home care providers going out of business if councils can't afford to pay the cost of the care being provided.

Councils are left facing impossible decisions about the types of care services they can afford to provide for the elderly and disabled, the submission warns.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA's Community Wellbeing spokesman, said:

"Social care is in crisis. We all deserve a social care system which can give our parents or grandparents a dignified and civilised level of care when they need it, but we can't do this without proper funding for councils.

"At the moment, social care and health have a shared ambition, but not a share of the money which is needed to achieve this. It simply doesn't add up and the Spending Review is the Government's opportunity to address this.

"Pumping money into the NHS but not into social care has to stop. NHS money will not pay for the essential visits from carers that help people to get dressed or washed or the night time call to help someone into bed. It is these services that enable people to live with dignity in the community for longer instead of being forced unnecessarily into hospital beds – at a cost to the NHS and the public purse.

"We need a system which will be there for future generations - and we have ambitions in the Care Act to improve the lives of carers and those that need care - but these continued funding pressures are putting this at serious jeopardy."

Social care and support services keep people independent and well in the community, but continued pressure on funding and the increasing demand of people with more complex needs mean fewer people are receiving state support. Recent ADASS budget survey figures showed that 400,000 fewer people are receiving state social care and support today than in 2009/10.

Ray James, President, ADASS, said:

"Everybody accepts that more people are living longer, often with more complex needs. The welcome announcement of the living wage will inevitably increase the cost of care. Adult social care budgets have been cut by 31 per cent in real terms over the last 5 years. Ninety-nine per cent of NHS managers surveyed already report the impact of cuts to social care on front line NHS services. For the first year in living memory more care home beds have closed than opened.

"The simple undeniable truth is that the Chancellor must provide a fair and sustainable funding settlement for social care to ensure growing numbers of older and disabled people get the care and support they need each and every day of their lives."

Of those who are still supported, a significant number will be receiving a reduced level of care as budgets tighten.

Adult social care also has a vital role to play in alleviating the growing pressure on the NHS, but capacity is running out.

In their submission to the Chancellor, the LGA and ADASS are calling for the Government to;

  • Plug the funding gap in adult social care that is growing by just over £700 million a year. Until the system is stable enough to implement delayed Phase 2 Care Act reforms, using previously earmarked funding into the care service, with the rest of the funding coming from reductions in spending on other government departments.
  • Fund all additional pressures including Deprivation of Liberty safeguards (DoLs) and the introduction of the National Living Wage.
  • Allocate £2 billion in each year of this parliament to help the system move more towards prevention, rather than simply fixing problems.
  • Match local government's ambition by greater pooling of budgets between health and social care through an expanded Better Care Fund.

Last week the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, stated that there is a ‘direct impact on the NHS if there is not a settlement for social care.' However, while the NHS has had £2 billion committed in each year of this parliament to help plug their funding gap, no similar commitment has been made for social care, despite growing demand.

Instead of competing for the limited funds available, the NHS and local authorities need to be able to work together to create a care system which focuses on preventing poor health.

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