The Chancellor should bring forward £1.5bn funding from the improved Better Care Fund to plug the hole in social care funding in the year ahead (2017/18), say the Communities and Local Government Committee in the Pre-Budget report for their Adult Social Care inquiry.
The Committee also calls on the Government to commit to closing the funding gap for the rest of the Parliament through to 2020. The Committee is asking the National Audit Office (NAO) to build on its earlier work in this area to determine the level of funding the Government will need to find for 2018/19 and 2019/20. The Committee finds there is an urgent need for a review, ideally cross-party, of the provision and funding of social care in the long term. The Committee will consider this further in the main report from their Adult Social Care inquiry, published in the coming weeks.
Clive Betts, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The adult social care sector provides care and support to adults of all ages with care needs to enable them to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Throughout our inquiry we have heard powerful evidence from all parts of the sector, including people who receive council-funded social care services, about the stress the system is under. The Government should bring forward £1.5bn from the improved Better Care Fund to help social care services meet the immediate pressures over the next year and then commit to closing the funding gap up to 2020. While short-term action is vital, there are funding, structural, and other problems facing the social care sector in the medium- and long-term which we shall be addressing in our final report published next month”.
Estimates for the ‘funding gap’ in adult social care range from £1.3 billion to £1.9 billion in 2017-18, and £1.1 billion to £2.6 billion in 2019-20. The Committee recommends the Government brings forward the 2019-20 tranche of the improved Better Care Fund (improved BCF) to fill the funding gap in 2017-18. This would be in addition to the £105m improved BCF money already allocated for the coming year.
The report recognises growing concern about the pressures on councils’ adult social care budgets, and the financial sustainability of the system. The Committee notes that since 2010 the core grant which councils receive from central government has reduced and, at the same time, councils’ social care budgets have faced a set of increasing cost pressures, which include a growing and ageing population, increasingly complex care needs, and the implementation of the Care Act 2014, the National Living Wage and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
The report recognises that councils have tried to protect their adult social care budgets by making savings in other services and efficiency savings, and the Committee heard evidence that either people are not getting the care they require or the care they already have is not being increased as their needs grow.
The report welcomes the measures already taken by the Government to provide new sources of funding for social care—the social care precept, the improved Better Care Fund and the adult social care support grant—but the report acknowledges that, even taking into account these funding commitments, a ‘funding gap’ exists in adult social care. The report recognises the Government is working to review the needs assessment formula and that this is expected to conclude by the end of 2018.The Committee notes that arguments about the lack of central government funding will, however, be weakened if councils have not raised the maximum amount available to them.
The Committee also notes a range of concerns about the new funding mechanisms, including concerns about the sufficiency of the amount raised by the precept and the variation across councils in the funding it generates, that the adult social care support grant is a reprioritisation of funding from the New Homes Bonus and that the improved Better Care Fund is backloaded at a time when funding pressures are acute.