Local Authority Councils have welcomed the government’s decision to give them an extra £150m in funding for social care over the next financial year, but warned it was a temporary measure that would not alleviate wider pressures.
The cash injection was announced by Sajid Javid, the community’s secretary, in a written ministerial statement outlining the local government finance settlement for 2018-19.
After “listening to representations”, Javid said, he was committing an extra £150m over the year for social care, to be allocated on the basis of relative needs. The money will come from an expected underspend elsewhere in his department.
It is hard not to see the money as a response to the actions that are now being taken by Councils that in order to provide social care they are having to massively control their spending on other services.
It follows the decision last week by the Conservative-run Northamptonshire county council to signal it as near to effective bankruptcy after admitting “severe financial challenges”, particularly over social care.
The council issued a section 114 notice imposing financial controls and banning spending on all services except statutory obligations to safeguard vulnerable people.
The government has also faced pressure from some of its MPs to boost funding. The Shrewsbury and Atcham MP, Daniel Kawczynski, tweeted on Monday that he was having “difficult discussions” over the local government finance settlement.
The new cash means the government has given councils £9.4bn in dedicated funding for adult social care over three years, the statement said. The wider issue of social care needed “a sustainable settlement for the future”, Javid said, adding that a long-planned green paper on the subject due this summer would set out further plans.
Responding to the settlement, Gary Porter, the Conservative peer who chairs the Local Government Association (LGA), said the £150m “is recognition of the LGA’s warning about the urgent need for the government to further try and help councils tackle some of the immediate social care pressures they face”.
The money was, however, “a temporary measure and needs to be compared against an annual social care funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020”, Lord Porter said.
He added: “Core central government funding to councils will be further reduced by half over the next two years and almost phased out completely by the end of the decade.
“We have warned that councils also face an unprecedented surge in demand for children’s services and homelessness support. This is leaving increasingly less money for councils to fund other services, like fixing potholes, cleaning streets and running leisure centers and libraries.”
This financial year, Porter said, some councils were “perilously close to the financial edge”, even with the possibility of raising some extra council tax revenue.
Paul Carter, the leader of Conservative-run Kent council, and chair of the County Councils Network, said his organisation welcomed the extra money in the funding settlement.
He said: “While this funding provides some new resource for this coming financial year we must continue to work with ministers, who understand the enormity of the financial challenges facing counties, to deliver a long-term sustainable and fair funding solution to meet the estimated £2.54bn funding gap for counties.”
Councils have repeatedly warned that they face an increasing financial crisis caused by a combination of a significant reduction since 2010 of their support from central government and an increase in their statutory obligations, notably on providing social care to an ageing population.
Longer-term plans to tackle the crisis over funding social care were delayed after Theresa May swiftly ditched an election manifesto proposal to increase the amount people would have to contribute themselves.
In November, it was announced that the green paper outlining plans for the sector would be published this summer.
The cash injection of £150 million although given a cautious welcome by councils does little to address the funding gap in Local Authority funding. It can be seen more or less as a response to prevent some councils from declaring themselves bankrupt and unable to provide services for vulnerable people. It is one of a number of stop gap measures introduced by the Government to give it time to prepare the green paper outlining plans for the social care sector due to be published this summer. In the meantime, the rationing of social care will continue.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute
Bettal Quality Consultancy