The Chancellor is urged to bring forward £1.5bn funding from the improved Better Care Fund to plug the hole in social care funding in the year ahead.
A pre-budget report from the Communities and Local Government Committee also calls on the Government to commit to closing the funding gap for the rest of the Parliament through to 2020, 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.
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 and will consider this further in the main report from their Adult Social Care inquiry, published in the coming weeks.
Committee chair Clive Betts said the inquiry had heard ‘powerful evidence’ from all parts of the sector making a case for Government to bring Better Care funding forward to ease immediate pressures 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,” he said.
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 CLG 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, with the committee noting that that since 2010 the core grant which councils receive from central government has reduced.
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.
Though welcoming 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— the report says that, even taking into account these funding commitments, a ‘funding gap’ exists in adult social care.
Government is working to review the needs assessment formula and that this is expected to conclude by the end of 2018.
But the committee noted 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.
BACKGROUND: Adult social care: a pre-Budget report
The CLG Committee has held eight evidence sessions over four months for its full Adult Social Care inquiry into the financial sustainability of local authority social care and the quality of care provided.
A final report, which is expected to be published in the next month or so, will cover the implications of current funding levels for the sufficiency and quality of adult social care services, individuals and their families, carers, the care market, care providers, the care workforce and the NHS.
It will also consider and make recommendations on the medium- and long-term funding of adult social care and the structural challenges presented by the current configuration of the system.
The Committee inquiry has included sessions on care funding, care homes and home care, carers, integration between the NHS and social care services.
Members have questioned a range of witnesses from carers and people who receive local authority funded social care to local authorities, care providers and NHS representatives.
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 costs arising from the implementation of government policies, including:
- the Care Act 2014—£2.5 billion to implement from 2013 to 2019-20 (National Audit Office estimate);
- the National Living Wage (including compliance with the national minimum wage)—£360 million in 2017-18 (Association of Directors of Adult Social Care estimate); and
- Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards—£127 million a year (Local Government Association estimate).