Research, carried out before the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, has highlighted fundamental problems concerning how different social services will be affected in the future, including adult social care. The survey included all 151 adult social services directors in England, and it has found that despite charging residents extra council tax to pay for social care, and disabled clients now have to pay for social services from their disability benefits (care component), the additional revenue isn’t sufficient to cover the cost of the new National Living Wage (NLW), nor will it address the huge shortfall in funding to meet increasing public demand.
The research published yesterday by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) indicates that the precept, introduced in the Autumn Statement 2015 to give councils the option to raise council tax by 2 per cent for adult social care, will generate less than two thirds of the more than £600 million needed to cover the NLW this year, leaving directors with a gap to fill of around £940 million just to keep essential services operating at last year’s levels – and at a time when demand from people who need support is steadily increasing.
ADASS President Harold Bodmer said:
“Councils are working hard to protect adult social services budgets, with adult social care accounting for 35 per cent of council spending for the third year running. However, with more people needing support and having increasingly complex needs, the impact of the welcome national living wage, and other cost pressures, fewer people are getting help, and councils are having to make reductions which will impact on people who receive care.
“More money needs to be invested in prevention to reduce future demand, but with funding under such pressure and diverted to those with greatest and immediate need – those that we have a statutory duty towards – the opportunity to do that is being taken away.
“We have been arguing for some time now that adult social care needs to be given the same protection and investment as the NHS. Services are already being cut, and the outlook for future care is bleak. We’re at a tipping point where social care is in jeopardy, and unless the Government addresses the chronic underfunding of the sector, there will be worrying consequences for the NHS and, most importantly, older and disabled people, their families and carers.”
The survey also found that more people in need were being affected by the crisis in social care funding:
- Despite a 3 per cent increase in the older population, there has not been a corresponding rise in people receiving care;
- At least 24 per cent of the £941 million (7 per cent) savings that adult social services directors will be expected to make this year will come from cutting services or reducing personal budgets;
- 80 per cent of directors reported that care providers – both care home owners and home care providers – were facing financial difficulties and closing care homes or handing back contracts to councils, affecting thousands of people, despite 82 per cent of councils increasing fees to providers.
Mr Bodmer added:
“ADASS will be closely monitoring the potential impact of the referendum result on the economy and funding of adult social services, and we’ve extended our support to the 80,000 EU staff who are providing care to people right across the country, every day.
“While these may be uncertain times, the most important thing to remember is that people’s needs for care won’t stop. We still have a responsibility to make sure people are getting the support they need to live independent, valuable lives, and to plan ahead as best we possibly can.”
Although the overall budget for adult social services has risen slightly from last year because of the revenue raised due to the precept, from £13.65 billion to £13.82 billion, there is wide variation between individual councils, with 70 of 151 reporting a fall in budgets. 62 councils needed to draw on the reserves from last year to fund significant budget shortfalls, whilst 52 had been forced to cut services to balance budgets.
And of course the precept also raises the least amount of money in the areas of greatest need, intensifying existing budget pressures.
This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.