CONCERNS HAVE GROWN among councils in recent months that the UK Government’s adult social care charging reforms in England are potentially hugely underfunded, which will risk their implementation as well as exacerbating existing pressures on the system.

Of the £36 billion the new UK-wide health and social levy will raise over the next three years, only £5.4 billion is ringfenced for social care reforms in England. These include the introduction of a ‘fair rate of care’ that councils will pay providers, and tackling the issue of self-funders paying more for their care than those who access support at the council rate.

The survey of senior councillors responsible for adult social care across the country, ahead of the start of the Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Conference in Harrogate today (28 June) also found three quarters of responding councils said that they are not confident they will have the required capacity in frontline staff to deliver the reforms.

The LGA is warning that underfunded reforms will exacerbate significant ongoing financial and workforce pressures, including significant vacancy rates across the sector. These have already led to over 500,000 people waiting for an assessment, care or care reviews – up from just under 400,000 in November

Unless action is taken and government rethinks its plans, people who draw on care may experience reductions in quality and availability of care and support services, while at the same time paying more for them through the new health and social care levy and increased council tax.

If the reforms do end up costing more, and there is no further resource from government, councils also indicated concern in the survey that other council services may be negatively impacted in order to make up for the shortfall.

At its heart, adult social care reform must better enable people who draw on social care to live an equal life and a better life. the findings of this survey cast serious doubt on whether the Government’s plans will enable councils to deliver on these objectives.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board said: “This survey lays bare the huge concerns of councils that the Government’s charging reforms are significantly underfunded. This has the potential to tip councils over the financial edge.

“Underfunding these reforms will only exacerbate pre-existing significant pressures, which the reforms – and the funding for them – do nothing to address. These include unmet and under-met need, greater strain on unpaid carers and increased waiting times for assessments and delivery of care packages.

“A higher proportion of the health and social care levy needs to be spent on social care to tackle these issues and create stable foundations for these reforms. Councils are stretched thin as it is, and my colleagues across the county have highlighted how many of their council services could be impacted by the cost of these reforms.

“Local government is seeking immediate assurances that the Government will underwrite any additional costs councils incur and will work with councils as a matter of urgency to consider further mitigations that may need to be used if funding, capacity and timescale pressures threaten implementation.”

Responding to the survey findings, Cathie Williams, Chief Executive of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said: “This report provides yet more evidence that social care is not fixed. The LGA survey shows that there is not enough money to make the changes which will mean that everyone can get the support they need and ensure greater fairness for both those who pay for their own care and those who do not own homes or have savings.

“There are now over half a million people waiting for assessments, care or reviews. In March, nearly two-thirds of Directors of Adult Social Services who responded to our survey were saying that they had to prioritise assessment for people in life-threatening situations, at risk of abuse or neglect, or being discharged from hospital. So we share the concerns about whether there will be enough staff to assess people for the proposed changes to charging and fees.

“We will only deliver more of the care and support we all want – to live good lives – by prioritising and paying the committed and compassionate care workforce better so that they stay in this essential and brilliant work.

“It would be dreadful if these changes [were] to founder because of a lack of funding or ambition. That is why we are calling for more of the Health and Social Care Levy to come to adult social care, and sooner”.

* Sources: Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services