Adult social care is the biggest service area for county authorities, who spend on average close to half their annual budgets on this one service. The pressures in social care are well documented: over the last decade, councils have witnessed a perfect storm of rising demand and reductions in funding, putting further pressure on budgets with more working age people requiring care alongside elderly individuals.
The government’s long-awaited proposals for reform were unveiled in September, which set out the intention to introduce a cap on care and extend the means-test threshold, alongside a commitment to closer equalise care fees between self-funders and those in state care. A total of £5.4bn has been committed for these reforms, but the package contained no upfront funding for councils’ short-term demographic pressures.
Analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers for the County Councils Network shows that in 2025 the network’s member councils will be spending £2.9bn per year more on adult social care compared to what they were spending in 2015 just to maintain services as they currently are. Sustainable funding is a vital first step to enable counties to deliver the high-quality social care that residents expect.
CCN is also concerned that the commitment to bring care self-funder fees closer to that of local authority rates could destabilise county care markets unless fully-funded. The network’s report on social care in county and rural areas outlines the cross-subsidy between self-funders who are able to pay more than councils, leading to an annual fee gap of £761m. This gap would need to be filled in order to ensure care providers stay economically viable and CCN will work with government to mitigate the risks of its commitment.
The CCN has always been clear that funding is only part of the solution alongside a root and branch reform of the system. As such, in early 2021 CCN worked with care specialists Newton on a blueprint for delivering better local care.
The government has also committed to a white paper on further reforms to the system, encompassing prevention, integration housing and workforce.
CCN’s #KeepCareLocal campaign set out the case for councils to deliver care and the government has made it clear it sees councils at the heart of a reformed social care system.