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Care Act Faces Failure – Warn Councils

LGA-logoA landmark piece of legislation that sets out how elderly and vulnerable people receive care and support will fail unless the Government announces new money for social care, councils are warning.

In its submission to the Treasury ahead of the Spring Budget, the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says the continued underfunding of social care is making it impossible for local authorities to fulfil their legal duties under the Care Act, leaving it on the brink of failing altogether and councils facing the prospect of court challenges.

The LGA says the funding crisis in social care is threatening the very spirit of the legislation which is about supporting people’s well-being and helping them to stay well and live dignified, independent lives.

Councils say that if government does not urgently announce any new money for social care, then ministers need to be “honest and upfront” with the public about the limitations of the care and support they can provide.

This could mean only managing to meet basic needs such as helping people get out of bed in the morning rather than enabling our loved ones to enjoy fulfilling, independent lives at home in the community, rather than a hospital ward.

In its Budget submission, the LGA is also calling on government to set out contingency plans to deal with major failure in the care provider market, with the lack of funding already causing some providers to hand contracts back to councils or cease trading altogether.

The Care Act, which passed into law in 2014, was several years in the making and represents the biggest reform of adult social care in a generation. The legislation aims to give people more control over their lives and allow them to stay well and independent for as long as possible, placing a duty on councils to promote people’s well-being.

But councils are now warning that the original intentions of the act are at risk of failing as a result of the lack of funding for adult social care services, which could see:

  • Providers pulling out of the publicly-funded care market or going bust
  • Growing unmet basic needs such as getting washed and dressed, or helped out of bed
  • Shorter care visits
  • Further strain on carers
  • An overstretched workforce with an increasingly high turnover
  • Greater pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals
  • More and more people stranded in hospital unable to leave

The LGA says that an inability to support people to stay well and live independent lives would constitute a failure to meet the very spirit of the Care Act as well as its statutory duties, which could result in judicial review.

Just eight per cent of directors of adult social care in councils say they are confident in their capacity to meet the full duties of the Care Act in the coming financial year, according to the latest ADASS budget survey.

The LGA estimates the overall funding gap facing social care remains at least £2.6 billion by 2020, after the Government failed to announce new money in the Autumn Statement and Local Government Finance Statement.

It has also urged the Government to use its recently announced review of health and care to consider new long-term solutions to secure the sustainability of care and support that includes genuinely new money rather than piecemeal measures that will not alleviate the social care crisis, with councils at the heart of that discussion.

Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said:

“The Care Act is a really important piece of legislation which the LGA fully supports.

“But the intentions and the spirit of the Care Act that aims to help people to live well and independently, are in grave danger of falling apart and failing, unless new funding is announced by government for adult social care.

“It is not good enough just to be trying to help someone get washed and dressed.

“Adult social care is about much more than this. It is about aspiring to help people live their lives to he fullest, and with dignity, not simply just get by. This is the great strength of the Care Act, which unfortunately is now at risk.

“If no new money is urgently announced, then government needs to be honest and upfront with the public about the limitations of the care and support we can provide, and the fact that as a society we will no longer be able to meet the ambitions and objectives of the Care Act.

“The need to inject new money into how we provide care and support for our elderly and vulnerable residents is something which councils, charities, care providers and the NHS are fully united in calling for.

“Genuinely new government funding is now the only way to save the Care Act, and to protect the services caring for our elderly and disabled people and ensure they can enjoy dignified, healthy and independent lives, live in their own community and stay out of hospital for longer, reducing the pressures on the NHS.”