The escalating cost of caring for the elderly means councils will have to divert £1.1 billion from services like fixing potholes and running libraries and museums from April, new analysis shows.
It comes as local authority leaders warn that a crisis in elderly care funding will have crippling repercussions for widely used local services as well as the NHS unless it is fixed.
Councils in England will see their core government funding cut by 8.8 per cent in 2015/16, following the Local Government Finance Settlement published by government last month.
However, cuts for services the majority of people use are likely to be much bigger than 8.8 per cent, new analysis from the Local Government Association reveals. This is because local authorities are having to find extra money from their shrinking budgets to meet the rising cost of caring for the elderly and disabled.
Councils spent £14.6 billion on adult social care in 2013/14. It is the biggest mandatory service councils provide and accounts for an increasing proportion of local government spending – now 35 per cent (2014/15) compared to 30 per cent in 2010/11. Rapidly rising demand means that even with councils protecting social care from cash cuts, the provision of care is having to be cut back to make ends meet.
Analysis carried out by the LGA, which represents councils in England, shows that in the next financial year (2015/16) councils will have to find £1.1 billion from other service budgets to continue protecting adult social care spending in cash terms. It follows a £900 million hit taken by other services to help plug adult social care funding last year.
The analysis is based on current spending patterns, which show councils have consistently been protecting spending on adult social care at a time when the elderly population continues to rise and local services have faced the biggest and most sustained cuts in funding since the war.
The £1.1 billion which need to be taken from other services in 2015/16 is equivalent to:
- The cost of filling 20 million potholes.
- Running 3,800 libraries. There are currently just over 4,000 libraries in England.
- Employing 80,000 school crossing patrol attendants.
The LGA is warning that if the crisis in adult social care funding is not addressed, councils will have little money left for any other services by the end of the decade.
Separate analysis has shown that local government funding has fallen 40 per cent over this Parliament and almost two in three councils say they are considering stopping some services in 2015/16 as efficiency savings are fast running out.
Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the LGA, said: “Adult social care funding is in crisis. Even with councils pulling out the stops to shield social care from the cuts, our vulnerable elderly and disabled are seeing some support scaled back and waiting times grow when they press the call button.
“Government’s failure to properly fund the ever-growing cost of care is short-changing not just those who use and need it. It is taking a toll on everyone who relies on councils to fix the roads, provide buses and keep our parks, libraries and leisure centres open.
“In some areas young people will be deprived of youth clubs, leisure centres and buses because the money is having to be taken away to plug a care funding black hole.
“Within just a few short years there will be some councils with little money left to do anything but social care, if this continues.
“It’s not enough for government to keep plastering over the cracks with short term fixes. We urgently need a longer term solution that puts social care on a sustainable footing. Failure to do so will deprive our elderly of the care they deserve, create additional pressure on the NHS and push other local services over the edge.”