Care Act risks becoming ‘unrealistic wish list’ without funding boost

Local Government Association report says an additional £1.3bn of additional funding is needed immediately to stabilise care market

The Care Act could become an “unrealistic wish list” of social care support unless the government provides more funding for the system.

That is one of the warnings from social care and health service leaders set out in a report published today by the Local Government Association on the state of social care.

The LGA said that historic underfunding of adult social care had brought the system to crisis point, with the strain on providers particularly severe. It called on the government to provide more cash for social care through the Autumn statement and said at least £1.3bn of additional funding was needed immediately to stabilise the market, with a further £1.3bn needed by 2019-20.

The association pointed to warning signs from professional bodies and frontline services that current funding levels were not sustainable. These included:

  • More than half of local authorities in England saw a home care or residential care provider exit the market in the first half of 2016, according to a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
  • Both Newcastle and Surrey councils said significant price increases for providers were becoming necessary in order to meet demand, but these were unsustainable in the face of the extensive savings the local authorities still had to make.
  • Camden council has warned it will be unable to continue meeting its statutory obligations under the Care Act without an increase in social care funding. Sefton council said cuts to its adult social care budget had created challenges in meeting its Care Act duties.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists has voiced fears that the Care Act risks becoming “an unrealistic wish list of exemplary services that no one ever receives” unless the funding situation is improved.

Nick Forbes, senior vice chair of the LGA, said: “The government must use the autumn statement to provide councils with the funding to ensure we have a fair care system where everybody can receive safe, high-quality care and support.” 

‘Lucky, not the norm’ 

Sector leaders also shared their concerns through a series of short essays in the report.

Lynda Tarpey, director of the Think Local, Act Personal safeguarding initiative, said: “We are starting to see evidence that budgets set aside for personalising services are being cut – including the amounts in people’s personal budgets. This is not a trend we want to see.”

Vicky McDermott, chair of the Care and Support Alliance, pointed to the rising numbers of people being “pushed out of the system” – an estimated one million older people in England have an unmet need for care and support. She added that people who do get the care they need were now considered “lucky, rather than the norm”.

Stephen Dorrell, chair of the NHS confederation, said politicians persisted “in believing that the NHS is a special case”, despite the evidence that cuts to social care services increased pressure on the health service, with GP visits, A&E attendance and admissions all on the rise.

He said acute hospitals were increasingly being used as “unbelievably expensive care homes”, which was a “grotesque” waste of resources and failed to ensure people’s needs, whether they be for social care support or high-cost NHS services, were met.

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