By Julie Tyas, Senior Social Work Consultant, Access Health, Support and Care
Over the past year local authorities (LAs) have been working hard – with their supplier partners – to prepare for the October 2023 care cap deadline. However, after weeks of speculation, the government’s autumn statement confirmed that it won’t be introduced until 2025.
While, understandably, this has been difficult for many citizen groups to accept, for service providers, the decision to relax the challenging timelines has provided some short-term comfort. The extra two years creates much-needed breathing space and could give LAs the opportunity to plan in a more manageable way.
However, considering the longer term, the delay has left some LAs in a precarious position. There are feelings amongst certain councils that the level of resource committed to preparing for the reforms could have been prioritised differently. And against the challenging economical backdrop, some LAs are reluctant to invest further.
While this is understandable, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Demand for adult social care is going to continue, regardless of the reforms, and budgets will remain challenging in spite of the increased funding. Although the £1bn new grant funding for social care in 2023/24, and the further £1.7bn in 2024/25 may ease immediate pressures, the unprecedented workforce issues facing social care show no signs of abating.
It means LAs will still need to manage citizens’ care provision with strapped resources. As such, it’s important that the role technology can play in easing this burden is considered when investment decisions are being made. Just a few examples of where digital can make real traction is by automating the needs and financial assessment processes, enabling online case management, brokerage of the appropriate services for individuals, and processing payments to care home and domiciliary care providers.
Laying the digital foundations now will enable councils to achieve efficiency benefits in the immediate term and bed-in solutions that can be adapted for the reforms, as and when they come into effect.
It’s crucial that government also sets out a clear roadmap to October 2025. That way, LAs can effectively build on their existing preparations, have confidence in their delivery plan, and use the time to best effect.
And while the delay might not have been universally welcomed, taking this approach makes it more achievable for LAs, and hopefully, easier for citizens to understand and accept.