money‘Sustained and substantial’ additional funds need to be made available to ensure care and support services for older and vulnerable people are to be maintained, according to directors of adult social services.

This call has been made by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) in the face of a £1.1 billion local authority budget cut expected in 2015/2016 and `almost unendurable’ cutbacks in the past four years.

In some cases this might mean fewer hours of vital home care or fewer people receiving funding for residential care. “What is at stake is the continuing capacity of adult social care to sustain services to those in greatest need,” said ADASS president Ray James. “In virtually all our authorities, the number in need is growing, while the complexity of their needs is increasing.”

He also warned that some councils have made many of their savings in the past by freezing fees paid to providers – in 2016 alone some £32 million of `efficiencies’ will be found through this route, although most have sought some increases to match inflation in 2015/16.

“The ongoing clamp-down on fees to providers is beginning to have an inevitable clamp-down on staff skills, staff training, staff remuneration and staff satisfaction,” James added. “Yet a well-paid, properly valued workforce is the rock on which the safety, care and security of so many of our vulnerable population is based. Without the one, it is becoming increasingly obvious that you cannot have the other.

“In the context of staff turnover, staff quality, the national minimum wage, and the calculated need for a million more care workers in the future, maintaining a sustainable workforce in a sustainable provider market is now a key concern. Yet 56% of ADASS chief officer members agree that providers are facing financial difficulties now.”

Shrinking budgets

Additionally, a survey by ADASS found that 50% of directors believe fewer people will get access to services, and 58% directors believe personal budgets will get smaller over the next 2 years. Directors think that there will be more legal challenges and 17% think that quality of care will worsen also over this period.

In addition, while councils are planning to spend £880 million on prevention in 2015/16, this represents only 6.6% of the budget and has fallen by 6% in cash terms since 2014/15.

The survey also pointed to what James described as the `folly’ of expanding NHS budgets at the same time as social care ones are reduced “despite the widely-acknowledged significance of the link between the two”. 

He said: “Health funding has rightly been increased from £97.5 billion in 2010-11 to £116.4 billion in 2015-16, an increase of 19.3%, while over the same period, social care funding has decreased from £14.9 billion to £13.3 billion, a reduction of 10.7% - and more in real terms when demography is taken into account. 

“Protecting the NHS is an important policy objective. But the health service itself agrees that an important part of that equation is the simultaneous protection, and enhancement, of social care budgets.”

He praised local councillors for having prioritised adult social care in face of the ongoing and significant reductions to their overall budgets. “Our survey shows that this year, as last, 35% of council budgets relate to adult social care, and adult social care is 30% of total council savings. But the ability of councils to do this in the future inevitably becomes more and more difficult.

“There is still time for central government to recognise the jeopardy so many of our citizens are being placed in by the continuing reductions being made to local government spending. Short-changing social care is short-sighted and short-term. It must also be short-lived if we are going to avoid further damage to the lives of older and vulnerable people who often will have no-one else but social care to turn to. It is vitally important these care and support services are protected.”

Worsening care crisis

Sue Brown, vice chair of the Care & Support Alliance – whose members include Mencap, Mind, the National Autistic Society and Rethink Mental Illness – said: “[These] figures confirm what we already know – that the care system is in worsening crisis.

“Chronic underfunding of adult social care has seen dramatic year-on-year rationing of support, excluding hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people from the care they desperately need, to get up, get dressed and get out of the house. This is also putting unbearable pressure on family carers.

“Councils have taken efficiency savings as far as they can. Essential services are now under threat.

“With an ageing population, more and more people are needing care. Failure to increase spending to meet this increasing need would be a disaster for disabled and older people, their carers, and the wider economy.

“The Government urgently needs to address the crisis in care funding to prevent the care system from total collapse in the next decade.”