Echoing MPs’ calls on the CLG Committee for the Government to close the social care funding gap by 2020, the group of 37 county authorities in the County Councils Network (CCN) have said that they welcome suggestions that the Chancellor has finally heeded their calls for additional cash to be injected into the care system in the Spring Budget.
However, they said that unless the distribution of the funding recognised the unique needs of Shire Counties, care services would continue to face unprecedented pressures. This view was reflected in the CLG Committee report, which calls for the current methodology of distributing cash for social care to be reformed as a priority so it better reflects need.
There is speculation that the ‘Improved Better Care’ fund could be brought forward to help address the social care funding crisis, and counties have called for this to be fairly distributed to those areas with the greatest need, such as rural areas that have the largest and fastest growing elderly populations.
In addition, Independent analysis has shown that Shire Counties witnessed the largest reductions in funding for social care during the last Parliament, despite witnessing the sharpest increase in demand for services. Counties are the lowest funded authorities for social care services in the country, with rural areas receiving the lowest amount of funding per head for their over 65 residents.
Despite this, cash already earmarked for councils through the ‘Improved Better Care Fund’ disproportionately benefits urban areas, especially the major cities; forcing these councils to put up council tax more to fund life critical local services.
Urban metropolitan Boroughs will receive £417 per head of over 65 from this new fund by 2019/20, while Shire Councils will receive just £147 – almost three times less.
Cllr Colin Noble, CCN Spokesman for Health & Social Care, and leader of Suffolk County Council, said:
“The size of the cake is important, but so is the way that it is divided up. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the urgency of the social care funding crisis, and we now hope the Chancellor provides significant new investment next week, to address the significant pressures felt across the country.
“But counties need a fair share of this cake, as they have been underfunded for so long, despite social care pressures being most acute in rural England. CCN has been working in a pragmatic and sensible way with Government to secure additional funding, and a fair distribution of this money will mean that elderly and vulnerable residents will continue to receive the care they deserve.”
Longer-term, counties will continue to work with Government to find innovative ways to ensure social care is sustainable in the long-term as Whitehall looks at reform to services.
Government must also provide clarity on the delayed elements of the Care Act, in particular the cap on care, as this is likely to affect county areas disproportionately due to the large numbers of self-funding residents living there.
Crucially, new and integrated ways of delivering local care must be supplemented by reform to council funding.
Funding currently does not follow need: independent research from LG Futures shows that CCN member councils receive 61% less per head for over 65s compared to London. This is despite counties predicted to see a 2% rise in their adult populations each year for the next three years; the highest rate out of any council type in England.
The Government has committed to a review of local government funding, and CCN argues that any new system of funding councils should be based on a simple methodology that reflects the genuine costs of delivering services.
Cllr Noble added:
“Innovative ways of funding social care will ensure that social care is sustainable in the long term, and counties’ expertise, track record, and financial prudence must be utilised when looking at new ways of working. Crucially, reform will only be a success if we address the current unfairness in the way social care is funded; and ensure that councils are funded based on the genuine need of their residents.”