Care costs soaring for adults with learning disabilities

New analysis has warned that the costs of caring for adults with learning disabilities is projected to increase by almost £2 billion by 2025, putting the ‘long-term’ survival of councils at risk.

The warning, made by the County Councils Network, show that the often-unrecognised extra costs, fuelled by a rise in the number of adults with severe learning disabilities requiring care and an increase in the cost of supporting them, will see annual costs rising from £4.8 billion in 2015 to £6.7 billion in 2025 collectively for all 152 councils with care responsibilities.

Opening CCN Annual Conference 2018, CCN chairman Paul Carter will tell delegates that the funding announced for councils in last month’s Budget has provided a short-term ‘lifeline’ for local authorities and will praise the government’s intervention. However, he will also say that ministers must recognise these ‘enormous’ extra care costs to ‘ensure the long-term survival of councils’.

The PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP figures show that ‘spending need’ – which takes into account projected demand and the higher costs of delivering services – for adults with learning disabilities could rise by almost 38 per cent by 2025, with the number of adults requiring care projected to rise by over 7,600 by 2025.

The CCN’s Spending Review campaign, A Fair Future for Counties, argues that any new funding for local government must be distributed to councils fairly to account for rising costs, such as learning disabilities, fighting the current variation across England. At present, county local authorities will see costs rise by £918 million in the 36 county authorities by 2025, which is half of all additional costs. This compares to £313 million in London and £350 million in other urban metropolitan areas and cities.

These additional costs are outside of councils’ control, and as a result they will have to cut other highly valued services or introduce new or increased charges for other services to make up the shortfall if no extra resource is made available to councils from 2020 onwards.

Carter, who is also leader of Kent County Council, will say: “Analysis published today by CCN, shows that the annual costs of providing services to the our most vulnerable adult disabled will be almost £2 billion higher in 2025 than a decade ago, with 49 per cent of these costs falling in counties. Individuals with severe learning disabilities are thankfully living longer and have a much-improved quality life, due to great advances in medical science. However, they understandably have little if any personal wealth or assets, and therefore escalating costs fall directly on our councils.

“The government’s recent announcements have provided us with a lifeline for next year, but to ensure the long-term survival of councils these enormous extra costs must be recognised and the situation rectified in the Spending Review. As part of a funding and integration package with the NHS, I believe that this should mean at least 20 per cent of the NHS’ £20 billion ‘birthday present’ should invested directly by councils in community-based care to meet growing demand in areas such as learning disabilities.”

Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and of this number 350,000 people have a severe learning disability.