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“Tough Decisions” as Financial Pressures Threaten Care and Support Services

Further savings to council budgets mean tough decisions for social care leaders and struggles for people needing care and support

470,000 people in England waiting for care, a direct payment or for their care needs to be assessed as we head into winter

Councils face tough decisions around maintaining care and support services as financial pressures demands further savings from adult social care, warns the Local Government Association (LGA) and ADASS (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) today.

New data published by ADASS, shows at least a third of adult social care leaders in England need to find another £83.7 million of cuts as we head into winter, on top of the £806 million in savings directors across England committed to make in their budgets this year1.

The true cost of social care for local councils is likely to be even higher, because the cost of providing care to all of those people who need it is not included in the current projections.  At present there are nearly a quarter of a million people waiting for their care needs to be assessed and a significant number of them are likely to be entitled to some form of council funded social care, whether short-term support or long-term care.

The survey also reveals an 8% increase to waiting lists with 470,000 older and disabled people waiting for care to start, direct payments or their care needs assessed. While this is down 20,000 since last autumn2, it is still unacceptably high and reflects the continuing challenges around recruitment and retention of care staff.

All council services are under pressure to find savings as costs and demand pressures continue to rise – analysis from the LGA found that councils in England face a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years, which is a £1 billion increase since the LGA’s initial analysis in July. It also shows that by 2024/25 cost and demand pressures will have added £15 billion (almost 29 per cent) to the cost of delivering council services since 2021/22.

ADASS President, Beverley Tarka, said,

“Without the extra funds the Government3 has invested in adult social care this year, we’d be in an even worse place. But what this survey shows is while that’s stopped the ship sinking, it hasn’t moved us out of the storm we’re trying to navigate.

“Social care leaders and their teams are struggling to find savings and meet people’s needs at least minimally, but they can’t perform miracles from already overstretched budgets.  Thousands of people are waiting for their council to assess their care needs and some of these people will reach crisis point and end up in hospital this winter, because they haven’t got the support they need in time.

“Ahead of the Autumn Statement, we are calling on Government to provide an additional £900 million to stabilise adult social care, helping us to recruit and retain more care workers and support more people that need care and support now.

“In the longer term we need a fully funded plan for social care which takes account of the true cost of essential social care. We ask that the government demonstrate that it values the lives of all of us, not least people needing and working in social care. Older and disabled people, people from poorer and culturally diverse communities, carers, people with mental ill health, those experiencing domestic abuse and the largely female workforce, are leading restricted or foreshortened lives, when social care can support gloriously ordinary lives.”

Also commenting, Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: “Councils are facing severe funding and demand pressures, meaning finances are under strain like never before.

“The easy savings have long since gone. Councils are being faced with tough decisions about cutting valued services, increasing council tax and fees and charges during a cost-of-living crisis.

“Immediate investment is needed in the Autumn Statement in order to address unmet and under-met need and ensure timely access to social care for all who need it.”

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“It’s devastating to read the new ADASS report which is predicting further cuts to social care as we go into the winter months.”

“Behind every person waiting for care support, or to have their care needs assessed, there is often an unpaid carer. It’s unacceptable that families are being placed in a position where they have very little choice about having to provide many hours of care – impacting on their health and wellbeing, employment opportunities and household finances.”

“Unpaid carers have been under huge pressure for some time, bearing the brunt of the pandemic, not being able to rely on services because they’ve not returned to former levels, and the cost-of-living crisis. What they want is good quality care services and a proper night’s sleep – so that they receive some respite from the intensity of their caring roles. Our recent State of Caring report showed a mental health emergency amongst unpaid carers: almost three quarters (73%) whose mental health is bad or very bad continue to care despite feeling at breaking point.”

“Carers deserve better. The Government must deliver a robust and sustainable funding settlement for social care in the coming Autumn Budget.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England said:

“With the needs of the population growing and the money allocated for social care not increasing to match, the maths simply doesn’t add up. Access to social care should not be a battle for those who need it. Without funding from central government to allow for an expansion of care provision, we share ADASS’s concerns that people will be left without care.”

“Voices from across the sector converge on a singular message: saving social care is impossible without the right funding. Against this current backdrop, how can social care be expected to develop a sustainable system for the future? Investment is needed for community provision, and prevention, alongside the costs of providing care for those who need it in the immediate term. The Government must use the Autumn statement as an opportunity to invest in the sector, and invest in the future of social care in England. The new Secretary of State will have a growing list of priorities as she settles into her new role, none more important that fixing adult social care.”

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has today, 16 November 2023, published its Autumn Survey Part 2. The report is available here.

 

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