Social care leaders have called on the government to reform how social care is funded, following a survey carried out by the Association of Adult Social Services.
The survey found that £890 million is to be cut from the social care budget in the year to March 2013, despite increasing demand for services from older people and those with learning disabilities. Also, when combined with last year’s figures, the cumulative reduction in adult social care budgets is £1.89 billion – and comes at a time when growing pressures from rising numbers of older and disabled adults continues to grow at 3% per year. The survey revealed that, of the planned savings to be made, only 12.7% will be through reducing services. More than 85% of savings will be through efficiency and service re-design. Fees for people with learning disabilities in residential care, and home care for older people, and people with physical and learning difficulties are set to increase by an average of 1% in the coming months, the survey also found. However, the increase depends on where you live – some authorities will increase fees by more than the average, while others will decrease their fees.
Only six councils (7%) changed their Fair Access to Care Services criteria between this year and last – from moderate to substantial. There are now 83% councils at substantial in 2012/13 compared to 78% in 2011/12 and 2% at critical only.
Sarah Pickup, president of ADASS, said: "The latest survey shows that councils continue to strive to protect frontline services through re-designing services to focus on prevention and recovery and reducing on-going costs, and by reviewing processes, services and contracts to ensure value for money. "Yet despite this and the use of transferred resources from the NHS to protect services and fund rising demographic pressures, some councils have had to resort to reductions in services to balance their budgets. We are particularly concerned at the impact this might have on preventative and voluntary sector services. "With pressure from care home and home care providers to reflect rising costs in the prices we pay for care; charges to people who use services, often already at the maximum permitted level; rising demand; and a downward forward trajectory for councils' funding, it could not be clearer that there is a desperate need for politicians from all parties quickly to find an answer to how we, as a nation, are going to adequately fund social care services in the future. "If a sustainable funding system is not put in place then despite all the skill and ingenuity directors of adult social services and their staff can bring to bear there is a real risk that access to care will have to be restricted. Fees paid to providers will be squeezed further with a risk to on-going capacity and quality of care, while the percentage of overall savings made by directly reducing services will increase. “This challenge will not go away if it is once again kicked into the long grass. No-one expects an immediate and complete solution. But putting in place the architecture of a new funding system and looking at how we can shift the balance of current public spending to ease pressure in the sector is work that needs to start immediately.” Richard Humphries, senior fellow at think tank The King’s Fund, also called on the Government to address the funding “crisis”: “With further local government budget cuts to follow, it is not alarmist to warn of an impending crisis in social care and the risk that this will undermine the performance of the NHS. “Our own work shows how pressures on social care services are feeding through into high levels of hospital bed occupancy, contributing to an eight year high in the proportion of patients spending more than four hours in A&E. “This survey reinforces the need to move much more quickly to achieve closer integration between health and social care and deliver a long-term funding settlement for social care based on the proposals set out by the Dilnot Commission. “If ministers do not keep their promise to produce a blueprint for action this side of the summer recess, they will be failing the current and future generations of older and disabled people and storing up problems for the NHS.”