Analysis reveals the fragile nature of adult social care services ahead of new Panorama documentary

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2019 | 29 May 2019

Councils will need to spend £6.1bn per year more in 2025 on adult social care services compared to what they were spending a decade ago, new figures reveal.

England’s 36 county authorities are responsible to £2.9bn of the £6.1bn figure – just under half of the total of all 152 social care authorities. PwC concludes that those 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 £2.1bn more in 2025 compared to what they are presently spending in 2019.

The figures are taken from a new independent analysis of councils’ financial sustainability up to 2025 from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) for the County Councils Network (CCN) had lay 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.

Whilst the figures look at change in spending over a decade, the analysis shows that it is over the next six years (2019-25) that all councils will face the most pressure. Councils will be having to spend £3.9bn more a year in 2025 compared to how much they are spending currently in 2019.

Increasingly, the costs will be borne not just by over 65s in poor health, but by adults with severe learning disabilities. The bulk of the extra projected spending will fall in county areas – with spending in those 36 areas for services for adults with learning disabilities projected to be £861m higher in 2024/25 compared to a decade before. By 2024/25, CCN member councils will account for 45% of all spending need on this service.

Importantly, filling this funding gap only keeps services ‘standing still’ – rather than improving or enhancing them, nor reversing the last nine years of cutbacks. Councils have warned that in that period costs in caring for people on a daily basis have doubled whilst funding has decreased. In the period 2016-2020 counties will lose 43% of government grant funding, on top of reductions during the Coalition years.

County leaders, who run some of England’s largest councils, 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.

They say tonight’s Panorama programme, due to air at 9pm on BBC1, comes at an important time to kick-start a national conversation on how to fund social care. The ‘Crisis in Care’ film, split over two parts, is expected to showcase the pressures of delivering frontline adult social care in a large county, due to demographic and financial pressures.

Cllr 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 £6.1bn more on adult social care services compared to what was spent in 2016. The 36 county authorities in England are responsible for £2.9bn 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.”

Notes to editor

  • CCN is the national voice for England’s county councils. It represents all 26 county councils and 10 county unitary authorities. Collectively, they represent 26 million people, or 47% of the country’s population. It is a special interest group of the Local Government Association. For more information, visit
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers: We are committed to the public sector, helping to shape strategy at the heart of government and improve results on the frontline. This is what inspires and guides our work – we see everyday the real difference the sector has and can make to people’s lives.  We bring the best of professional services to our public sector clients through the expertise and commitment of our people. We know times are uncertain yet we see great possibilities for UK public services. We use our cross-industry insights and our global perspectives to help make public services the best they can be. For more information, visit
  • The figures in this press release are taken from Table 10 in the full, technical report. (pg18)
  • PwC’s analysis is based on the funding required for councils to provide a ‘more consistent level of service by adjusting local authority level unit costs when estimating ‘spending need’. This methodology recognises that county, metropolitan and London boroughs face different levels of demand for services by using 17 different cost drivers across 10 service areas. It also adjusts for the labour and property costs that are the product of a council type’s geography and incorporates the rising costs of ‘generic’ cost drivers such as inflation and the living wage. A full technical explanation can be found here.
  • It is important to note that a more consistent level of service does not mean that every council should be delivering the same services, or that every council faces the same demands and needs. Nor does it mean this is the standard of service that every council should aim to provide. But it does allow a fairer approach to estimating spending need to ascertain the relative funding challenges facing different types of councils.
  • PwC’s modelling makes a series of future funding assumptions from 2020 onwards using a model developed by Pixel Financial Management, including a move to increased business rate retention of 75% in 2020/21. It assumes that the Better Care Fund will be continued and continued at the same level of yearly funding (£1.83bn), alongside the New Homes Bonus (£902m). Both these funds are scheduled to end in 2020 and if they are not provided beyond this period the funding gap will be higher annually by these amounts. A full list is on page 40 of the full report.