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Social care directors warn of funding crisis

Vulnerable will be without care, says report

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 08 November 2016

Just one in ten adult social care directors believe their budgets are now manageable.

In a new report, published today, they warn that thousands of vulnerable people could be left without the care and support needed to maintain their independence. 

The County Councils Network (CCN) report: Delivering Adult Social Care in Challenging Times, outlines the issues and funding pressures facing county authorities.

The results of a survey contained in the report from county directors of adult social care (ASC) reveals that 88% believe their budgets to be either ‘severe’ or ‘critical’, and only 12% say current funding levels are ‘manageable’.

The evidence comes ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility for the economy and public finances, due on 23 November 2016. 

According to the CNN’s survey, only one in five ASC directors believe Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) will fulfil their objective to ensure services are sustainable in the coming years. And they cite insufficient funding, as well as conflicting targets and incentives, as impeding health and social care integration.

The report shows that social care pressures are most acute in county areas – CCN member councils have the oldest and fastest-growing elderly populations, yet funding has proportionately reduced for counties at a higher rate than any other local authority type. As a consequence, the CNN says overspend in social care means some county authorities will struggle to deliver a balanced budget before the end of this Parliament. 

The impact of this rising demand and falling budgets in county areas has a knock-on effect within the public sector, states the CCN, with its members seeing a 68% increase in the number of delayed discharges within the month from April 2014 to July 2016, higher than in any other local authority area – costing the NHS millions.

Ahead of the report launch, CCN has written to the Chancellor and Health Secretary on behalf of county authorities to request he brings forward at least £700 million of the Better Care Fund to 2017/18, to address the funding crisis now.

The letter, signed by CCN Chairman Councillor Paul Carter, said: “It is vital we work together to find a sensible and sustainable way forward. If we proceed on the current trajectory, I fear the impact on frontline social care services in counties will be terminal. This will potentially leave some of the most vulnerable people in our society without the care and support they need to maintain their independence and dignity.”

Commenting, Colin Noble, CCN spokesperson for Health and Social Care, said: “CCN has released this report at a time when adult social care is at a crossroads. The current route is unsustainable – the fact that only one in ten directors believe their budgets are manageable is a stark summary of the current situation.

“The scale of the financial challenge ahead is evidenced in the fact that many councils will struggle to deliver a balanced budget by the end of this Parliament. This should not be mistaken as financial mismanagement; county authorities are contending with an impossible situation of seeing budgets reduce at a quicker pace than other councils, while coping with the biggest and fastest growing elderly population.”

He added: “Therefore, it is imperative that Government recognise the extreme pressures faced by county authorities sooner rather than later, to give councils a fighting chance of maintaining high-quality care services. If not, thousands of residents who deserve these services may lose the support they cherish, and the impact on the wider public sector will continue to intensify.”

The report also calls upon Government to reform NHS incentives to shift the funding received by providers away from rewarding contacts with patients, to promoting prevention, early intervention and integration. 

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