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LGA: Social care not just about elderly people - councils

Social care is not just about looking after elderly people, with councils today warning that care and support for other groups are also "seriously under threat" due to a lack of funding.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says one of the bigger financial pressures on councils is providing care for people with learning disabilities.

NHS Digital data for 2015/16 shows that 143,705 adults in England received long-term social care from their local council for a learning disability, of which 15,980 were aged over 65.

Councils say that while a common perception is that social care is about older people, this demonstrates that it goes far beyond that, and includes supporting many other groups with a variety of needs such as those with learning disabilities.

Around a third of councils' annual social care spending – approximately £5 billion – goes on supporting adults with learning disabilities.

This can pay for things such as specialist equipment, residential care, or home care help with everyday tasks like cleaning and shopping.

The LGA says the number of adults with a learning disability needing social care is set to rise by 3 per cent a year, piling further pressures on local authority finances.

The costs of care are much higher for adults with learning disabilities than other groups needing support, such as older people.

It is estimated more than an additional 4,000 adults with learning disabilities will need social care next year, as children receiving support make the transition to adulthood.

Social care also helps people with learning disabilities into work.

But latest employment statistics show that the proportion of adults with learning disabilities in work is falling, from 7.1 per cent in 2011/12 to 5.8 per cent in 2015/16, which councils argue is symptomatic of the underfunding in adult social care.

They say that with more money, more people with learning disabilities could be helped into work.

Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020.

Ahead of the Budget on 8 March, the LGA is urging the Government to give councils the funding they need so they can support people with learning disabilities.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said:

"Social care is about far more than just supporting our older citizens. It is about meeting a wide range of different support needs, affecting people of all ages. These include the thousands of people with learning disabilities who rely on care and support from their local council on a daily basis.

"But without new money, the support provided to adults with learning disabilities and those other groups who have care needs will be seriously under threat.

"We need the Government to deliver a long-term, sustainable solution to solve the social care funding crisis, and not more short-term fixes.

"A young person with a learning disability who has their whole life ahead of them needs to know they have a social care system that will be there for them in the decades ahead.

"Year-to-year sticking plasters will not provide that assurance and will not enable them to live dignified, independent lives.

"Councils face a real financial challenge to provide the best possible support for growing numbers of people with learning disabilities who rightly want care services to help them live their life as they see fit.

"But the system is now on the brink of collapse, and we call on government to do the right thing and use the Spring Budget to inject genuinely new money into adult social care."

Rossanna Trudgian, Head of Campaigns at Mencap, said:

"The demands placed on our critically under-funded and under-resourced social care system are growing from all groups, including people with a learning disability.

"Despite this it has taken too long to acknowledge the social care crisis, meaning the sector is now in need of an urgent injection of funding to avoid collapsing.

"The current lack of funding for the sector means people with a learning disability are struggling to access the care and support they desperately need to ensure they are able to maintain their health, live independent lives or find employment and instead are stuck at home becoming increasingly isolated and worried about the future.

"Short-term solutions such as the social care precept are inadequate and will fail to bring the sector back from breaking point, the funding gap is too big.

"The Budget presents a real opportunity to make social care a priority and avoid increasing numbers of people missing out on the support they rely on, and moving closer into poverty and sickness."

Adult social care budget tool

Our care and support system is under enormous pressure, and to illustrate the challenge facing councils, we have produced a tool that puts you in control of the purse strings. What would you do to make up the funding gap? Use the tool


Total number of people needing long term social care support in 2015/16 – 873,000

The number of people accessing long term support during the year to 31st March, by primary support reason 

NHS Digital data 2015/16

Adults with learning disabilities in paid employment p7

Councils spent £5.16 billion on social care for adults with learning disabilities in 2015/16

LGA report – Learning disability services efficiency project


David Mills  !  020 7664 3200  !  david.mills@local.gov.uk

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