Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more


  • Comment
A winter crisis could return to hospitals across the country this year if social care for elderly people isn't fund...
A winter crisis could return to hospitals across the country this year if social care for elderly people isn't funded properly, local government leaders said as they published a social services budget survey today.

Following a similar survey in January predicting a social services overspend of£205m in 2000/01, an updated survey was published today by the LGA, the Association of Directors of Social Services, and the Societies of County and Municipal Treasurers, revealing that despite concerted efforts to control costs, 75% of social services departments actually overspent by£183m.

The survey reveals a growing gap between central government allocations and local government spending. It shows that most local authorities (55%) do not believe they will be able to sustain or improve their social services for 2001/02 and 85% per cent of councils believe additional health related funding will be significant in helping them prevent bed blocking.

Cllr Rita Stringfellow, chair of the LGA's social affairs and health executive said: `This survey highlights that elderly people and children are on the front line of this financial crisis in social services.

`Unnecessary hospital stays cause untold misery for elderly people and with the traditional winter pressures period only a few weeks away, I am extremely concerned that some local authorities will not be able to provide the vital care that will be needed to prevent such problems.

`Even without the additional overspend pressures of around£200m, social services budgets are already almost£1bn above government provision - with more than half of that due to local authorities' spending more than the government recommends, in order to drive up standards in children's services.

`Local government's increased focus on the quality and continuity of care provision has meant that councils are giving an increasingly greater financial priority to social services. But there is clearly a gap between central government's funding formula and local authority budgets.

`The problems of funding services for older people are compounded by the funding pressures of children's services.

`We recognise and welcome the efforts that the government has made in responding to some of the difficulties faced by social services. But this survey highlights the need for local councils to receive additional direct funding to cope with what are likely to be immense and growing demands.'

Commenting on the results of the survey LGA chairman Jeremy Beecham said: `We will continue to work with ministers to examine ways in which central government can help us address these problems swiftly. I have called for an urgent meeting with health secretary, Alan Milburn, to discuss the resources of personal social services'.

- An executive summary of the survey appears below. If you would like

accompanying tables and or the full budget document, contact LGCnet.

* see LGCnetfor Association of Directors of Social Services comment.





In response to continuing concerns of local authority elected

Members, Directors of Social Services and Treasurers/Chief Finance

Officers about escalating budget pressures and overspending on social

services by very many councils, a further comprehensive national survey

was undertaken in July 2001. 138 of the 150 authorities in England

responded to the survey.


Analysis of the July 2001 budget survey reinforces the position

of local authority social services budget pressures described in a

similar survey 6 months previously. Despite actions to reduce the

threatened overspend by the end of the last financial year, the final

position of social services expenditure in 2000/01, at£183m in excess

of original budgets, was only some£22m less than the earlier£205m

overspend predicted. 75% of authorities overspent in 2000/01. A graph is

attached showing the percentage overspends against budgets. More

importantly, the prospects in the current year and for 2002/03 are

considered to be even more worrying for local authorities.


The continuing pattern of spending around 2% in excess of

original budgets set by local authorities (about£200m) is on top of the

already growing gap between the government's funding formula for social

services and the budgets set by local authorities. Budget returns to

central government for 2001/2002 confirm that local authorities have

given even greater priority to social services. Social services budgets

have increased this year by nearly 6%. Social Services budgets for

2001/02 are almost£1bn above government provision, even before the

additional overspend pressures of around£200m.


For 2000/01, 138 authorities reported 1.9% (£168.5m)

overspending, the equivalent of£183m for all 150 authorities in excess

of budgets. Most of this overspending was internally funded by

authorities and not carried forward against 2001/02 budgets. However,

authorities were expected to carry forward£24m overspending.

It was not directly possible to compare all aspects of the

January and July surveys. 33 authorities reported£41m additional/late

in the year budget supplementation. 32 authorities had already received

£32m supplementation at the time of the January survey. There were also

differences in the ways some local authorities treated asset rents and

capital charges.


The impact of the government's direct funding of 'winter

pressures' or health authority transfers has been considerable. £46.4m

was added to social services' budgets in 2000/01 but with worrying

'knock on' implications of£172.7m in 2001/02. £21.5m of the 2000/01

overspending was attributed to delivering on the 'winter agenda'.

85% of authorities regarded additional health related funding as

significant in improving their performance in respect of delayed

hospital discharges. However, for 2001/02 the majority of authorities

(55%) do not anticipate being able to maintain or increase their level

of services of the last two years and the majority (51%) do not expect

their share of the additional Promoting Independence Grant from

government to cover the cost in 2001/02 of additional care packages

entered into over the last winter.


The particular pressures on children's services described in the

January Survey - 64% of the total predicted overspend - have been

reaffirmed by the July Survey. Local authorities are spending more than

£0.5bn in excess of SSA on children's services (an average excess of

27.4%) and are concerned about the unavoidable budget pressures of

meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and at risk children and young

people. Local authorities have welcomed their inclusion by both LGA and

ADSS in the further consultations and analysis being undertaken by

government currently - Department of Health and Treasury.


There are widespread concerns, particularly in some parts of the

country, about the availability and escalating costs of appropriate

nursing, residential and domiciliary care services, most especially for

older people, but also for adults with physical or learning

disabilities. Very considerable concerns were expressed in relation to

budget uncertainties and risks for 2002/03, particularly those related

to the changing statutory responsibilities around Free Nursing Care,

Preserved Rights, National Care Standards Commission, Charging for

services, etc., and the potential impact of these changes destabilising

still further the current fragile state of the social care market. 77%

of authorities reported that the availability of nursing, residential or

domiciliary care capacity (or by implication) availability at a cost

which could be afforded, was significant in their ability to make most

effective use last year of additional 'one year only' winter monies from

central government.


87% of authorities responding report a gap in 2001/02 between

demand (which falls within existing eligibility criteria) and budget,

estimated at£186.6m. 59% of local authorities have tightened, or

propose tightening, their eligibility criteria to manage demand


Over half (54%) of authorities report a worse budget position in

2001/02 compared with 2000/01. 25% say there will be no improvement on

2000/01. There is already a predicted overspend of 1.8% in 2001/02

across the authorities who responded to the survey.

While local authorities recognise and welcome the response of

central government in addressing some of the pressures described in this

survey, the financial challenges for local authority social services in

2001/02 and projected ahead into 2002/03 are immense. There are

pressures of need, demand, statutory duty, workforce availability,

market capacity and cost increases in excess of inflation. The Local

Government Association, Association of Directors of Social Services and

Treasurer organisations will be urging government to respond to the

budget pressures described by this survey in their financial planning

for 2002/03, 2003/04 and beyond, and more urgently over the coming

2001/02 winter.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.