£2bn of vital social care funding at risk next year

More than £2 billion of funding for vital social care services is at risk next year, with council leaders urging the government to confirm that resource will continue otherwise services will start to be decommissioned in the coming months.

The County Councils Network (CCN) has released new analysis, Adult social care funding and the Spending Review, which shows that £2.4 billion of funding for care services for the elderly and younger adults which makes up one-third of total government grant funding for councils, has yet to be confirmed by Whitehall.

Therefore, county leaders are calling on Chancellor Said Javid to use the upcoming one-year Spending Review to confirm all current funding for social care will continue next year. They have further urged him to fully fund next year’s estimated £652 million increase in the costs of delivering care due to rising demand and inflationary pressures. The CCN warns that this still leaves councils facing a funding shortfall due to an existing overall funding gap of £5.2 billion for all councils next year.

Without the continuation of funding from the Improved Better Care Fund, councils will soon have to begin decommissioning frontline services, likely during the Autumn months, and care packages for the elderly aimed at reducing delayed discharges from hospital due to a lack of availability of non-acute care beds, whilst also making further reductions to core care services alongside preventative measures and discharge work to help get people out of hospital quicker.

The analysis shows that county authorities are the ones who are most reliant on these three temporary grants. In total, 23 out of the top 30 councils most reliant on this temporary grant funding are county local authorities. This is in percentage terms total of all government grant funding, on this temporary grant funding. Somerset County Council is the highest - with 47 per cent of all its grant funding coming from the temporary grants.

Next year, all 151 care authorities will need to spend £17.3 billion with £8.2 billion worth of expenditure for the 36 county authorities. If the government was to commit to continuing the three grants, alongside exiting government funding, this only makes up 40 per cent of council costs for social care – with the rest being met through council tax and further local authority service reductions. In county areas, this figure is just 29 per cent of funding that comes via Whitehall.

David Williams, chairman-elect of the County Councils Network, and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: “The new Chancellor worked very constructively with councils in his time as Local Government Secretary of State and was well aware of the pressures we face in delivering adult social care against a rising tide of demand. In addition, the Prime Minister’s commitment to find a long-term solution to the funding of care services is very welcome.

“It would be inconceivable that the temporary grants – particularly the Better Care Fund - that have allowed us to prop up care services and address pressures on the NHS over the past few years, will not continue. But we are still in the dark over whether this lifeline for care services will continue.

“With budget planning for 2020/21 underway, we will reluctantly have to seek to decommission services that are directly funded by these grants in the coming months, in order to present a balanced budget next year – unless this funding is continued. We urge the Chancellor to use next month’s Spending Review to commit to rolling over these grants.

“This alone won’t be enough however. Councils in aggregate face an extra £650 million costs next year due to rising demand and costs of delivering adult social care, with the bulk of this falling on county areas If we are to protect frontline services, the Chancellor must provide councils with the resource to fully fund these pressures as a short-term measure ahead of genuine reform to the system. If not, once again council taxpayers will be asked to foot the bill, while frontline services will inevitably be reduced.”