Fragile nature of adult social care services revealed

New figures reveal that councils will need to spend £6.1 billion per year more in 2025 on adult social care services compared to what they were spending a decade ago.

A new independent analysis of councils’ financial sustainability up to 2025 from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) for the County Councils Network (CCN) finds that  large, often rural, county authorities are the most exposed to financial pressures yet have the least ability to address these pressures. They will be spending £2.1 billion more in 2025 compared to what they are presently spending in 2019.

England’s 36 county authorities are responsible to £2.9 billion of the £6.1 billion figure – just under half of the total of all 152 social care authorities. Councils will be having to spend £3.9bn more a year in 2025 compared to how much they are spending currently in 2019.

The analysis lays bare the fragile nature of the care system, with rising demand for services and rising costs of delivering those services driven in part by inflation, pushing up costs for local authorities. Importantly, this cost just keeps services ‘standing still’ as they presently are, rather than improving or enhancing them. It also does not include any potential costs arising from the social care green paper’s reforms when the proposals are revealed.

County leaders argue that the figures on the growing care crisis demonstrates the need for government to provide councils with a significant funding boost in this year’s anticipated Spending Review over the next three years or provide immediate clarity and emergency funding for next year if the review is delayed owing to Brexit uncertainty. At the same time, ministers must seek to publish the long-awaited social care green paper, and proposals must genuinely set out a sustainable way of funding local care.

David Williams, County Councils Network spokesman for health and social care, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Today’s powerful Panorama programme should underscore to government the imperative for a sustainable funding solution for social care. We applaud Somerset for stepping forward to demonstrate the pressures within local care services as well as reflecting the commitment of local government to do the best for residents.
“As Somerset have said, this is not only a local issue; it is a national issue and a topic successive government have been unable to find the answer to. Our new report from PwC lays bare the fragile nature of the social care system after years of underfunding and little reform. By 2025, councils will be spending £6.1 billion more on adult social care services compared to what was spent in 2016. The 36 county authorities in England are responsible for £2.9 billion of this, their large and ageing populations means they are most exposed to demand and cost pressures. This is before we consider any new cost burdens that may result from the forthcoming adult social care green paper.
“The report shows beyond doubt that the current situation is plainly unsustainable. Whilst we recognise the political stasis owing to Brexit, we urge the government to publish its green paper to kickstart a national conversation. Ministers should not shirk the difficult questions as to how and who should pay for care.”

The CCN sats that BBC1’s Panorama programme, due to air at 9pm on 29 May, comes at an important time to kick-start a national conversation on how to fund social care.