Council leaders are calling for “full flexibility” in how they use the £2 billion in new social care funding announced in the Budget, ahead of guidance due to be published by government on how it should be spent.
The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, also says that while the money will make a significant contribution to protecting services that care for older and disabled people, particularly in 2017/18, it is not enough to address the wider pressures across the sector, nor is it planned to continue after 2019/20.
Government is currently in the process of drawing up guidance for councils on how the money is spent.
While there is an expectation that the funding should be used to reduce the immediate pressures on the NHS, the LGA is clear that councils, who are best placed to understand the needs of their communities, should remain free to determine which social care services should be targeted.
With hospitals accounting for one in five of social care referrals, other areas of social care are also under great pressure and in need of adequate funding.
These include services that support people with physical and learning disabilities, and people with mental health conditions.
The funding announced in the Budget will help councils in the short-term, but the LGA warns the social care system remains in need of a massive overhaul if we are to deliver a long-term sustainable solution to how we care for people.
It says the Government’s social care green paper is “the last chance to get this right”, but must have the involvement of local government leaders.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“The £2 billion of extra funding announced over the next three years for social care, while not the solution to the crisis, is a significant step towards helping councils plug some of the social care funding gaps they face in the coming years.
“But we want assurances from ministers that councils will retain full flexibility to decide how best this money is used, so we can provide much-needed care and support for our older and disabled residents.
“Councils know where the pressures are in their local areas better than anyone else. It is also essential that there are no delays in releasing the money so that councils can provide extra care and maintain the services that would otherwise have been cut.
“Reducing pressures on our hospitals is important, but we must also remember that social care is about much more than just freeing up hospital bed space.
“It is about providing care and support for people to enable them to live more independent, fulfilled lives, not just older people, but those with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities.
“The funding announced in the Budget is just a starting point. It is critical that the Government’s Green Paper on social care includes local government leaders playing a central role in finding a long-term solution that reforms and fully funds our care system.
“This is essential if we are to do more than just help people out of bed and get washed and dressed but ensures people can live independent, fulfilling lives in the community, and relieve pressures on care providers and avoid widespread failure amongst organisations providing care.
“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade, this is the last chance we have to get this right.”