Councils will cut £10bn from their social care budgets over this spending review period, MPs have been told.
The figure was revealed at a health select committee hearing on Tuesday by John Jackson, chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ resources network.
Mr Jackson told MPs that his figure raised serious concerns about the future of social care funding.
“Adult social care is the largest part of council budgets and they will have to look for savings from it”, he said, warning that the further council tax freeze announced this month would put more pressure on care budgets.
Speaking to LGC after the hearing, Mr Jackson said: “When the Department of Health announced an extra £7.2bn over four years, we wanted to know how much councils would have to save over those four years. Our figure shows there is a considerable gap.”
He said the estimates, based on a survey of almost all upper-tier authorities, showed councils would make £1bn of cuts in 2011/12 and £2bn in 2012/13, increasing to £3bn in 2013-14 and £4bn in 2014-15.
Mr Jackson also told MPs that councils had, on average, made ‘efficiency savings’ that reduced their adult social care spending by 5%. He told LGC this included buying cheaper care as well as redesigning services. It could also include restricting eligibility criteria, he said, although very few councils had done this last year.
The Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell, chair of the health committee, told LGC he was impressed by the 5% figure. “If it really does come from efficiencies and councils are providing the same level of care for 5% less money, that is very impressive and something they should be shouting about”, he said.
Also at the hearing, David Rogers (Lib Dem), chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “The further we go along the time axis, the more critical the [care funding] situation becomes. The system must be adequately resourced to prevent it from reaching crisis point.”
LGA adviser Andrew Cozens said 83% of councils now only provided care for individuals whose needs were ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’.
He said 77% had increased charges for care, but warned they could not carry on doing this.
“There is relatively little scope for charging for services given the economic circumstances”, he said. “Councils are spending more money on fewer people, so their ability to raise charges for those people is limited.”
Mr Cozens said cutting “bureaucracy” around carers’ assessments was one way in which councils could save money. However, the Labour MP Barbara Keeley warned that the draft bill on care reform could lead to more, rather than less, red tape.
“There’s a pressure from the legislation to have more assessments and, rightly, extended to carers’ rights and entitlements”, she said. “It must be your expectation that the government is looking for you to do more of that rather than less.”
Cllr Rogers also warned that this year’s late announcement of councils’ funding settlements could leave authorities more vulnerable to legal challenges. The budgets are due to be announced in late December, rather than November or early December as is usually the case.
He said that as a result, “the time available for consultation with residents changes, and if it’s not done properly it can be liable for judicial review.”