10 per cent of councils cut adult social care funding by a quarter

A new report by researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which analyses official spending data on councils’ social care spending has found one-in-ten authorities made cuts of more than a quarter.

The figures suggested around six-in-seven councils made at least some cut to their social care spending per adult resident. 

Spending fell by most on average in London (18 per cent) and metropolitan districts (16 per cent ) covering urban areas like Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Tyneside. More generally, cuts were larger in the north of England than the south. Cuts were also larger, on average, in areas that in 2009–10: spent more on adult social care; had higher assessed spending needs; and were more dependent on central government grants. 

Among other findings, the report identified significant variation in councils’ social care spending across the country: spending was less than about £325 per adult resident in a tenth of council areas, while it was more than about £445 per adult resident in another tenth of council areas in 2015–16. That’s a difference of more than a third. It also found that for councils where there are relatively more people over pension age (particularly those entitled to means-tested benefits), and where levels of disability benefit claims and deprivation are higher, tended to spend more on social care.

Polly Simpson, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the report, explained: “The spending cuts analysed in our report have been accompanied by a substantial fall in the number of people receiving social care: down 25 per cent across England, between 2009–10 and 2013–14 alone. Cuts have therefore been delivered, in part, by removing care from many people, with those still receiving care presumably those with the highest needs. What all this means for the quality of care received, the welfare of those no longer receiving care, and other services like the NHS requires further research to answer.” 

David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS and another author of the report, added: “One thing that stands out in these figures are the big differences in spending per adult on social care among councils assessed to have very similar spending needs by the government. Whether this means spending needs assessments are inaccurate, or reflects differences in available funding or the priority placed on social care relative to other services or council tax levels, is unclear. But it emphasises that the government has got its work cut out in its ‘Fair Funding Review’ of how to measure different councils’ spending needs from 2019 onwards. That debate could get quite fraught.”

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