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£4.3bn social care 'black hole' by end of decade

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Services for the elderly and disabled are in danger of “spiralling into a black hole” after social care experts warned of a £4.3bn funding gap by the end of the decade.

The LGA and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have called for more funding to bridge the gap, which represents almost a third of annual adult social care spending.

They said the shortfall was set to be caused by a combination of reduced government funding and rising demand on services, in particular from the country’s rapidly ageing population.

The two organisations are warning that access to vital services for thousands of older and disabled adults could be left uncertain.

Analysis from the LGA and Adass showed that last year councils diverted £900m from other budgets to maintain the current level of service, despite making efficiency savings and receiving additional money from the 2010 spending round.

They said the pressures were set to continue, and by 2020 councils would have to find £4.3bn just to manage care services at the current levels.

Ahead of the start of the national children and adult services conference in Manchester this week, David Sparks (Lab), chair of the LGA, said: “These new figures are further proof that we need to stop vital adult social care services spiralling into a black hole. We must act now to both improve quality of life for people in their older years and steer England’s social care system away from the road to financial ruin.

“It’s not right that councils are taking the biggest hit in the pocket when we compare funding for delivering health and care services. We should all be working together to increase the ambition for a future of integrated health and social care that will deliver the best possible care to those who need it.”

Cllr Sparks said councils had worked “incredibly hard” to prioritise adult social care while finding savings of £3.5bn during the course of the parliament. He added that, ahead of the implementation of pooled budgets under the better care fund and the introduction of the care act, “the clock is now ticking for government to get the funding right”.

“The government should not be knowingly backing councils into a corner where they have to make impossible decisions about cutting other important services just to continue to manage caring [for] and supporting our most vulnerable,” said Cllr Sparks.

“We can’t stress enough the impact this will have on communities, and of course we must start asking the question about what happens when we have made all of the efficiencies and there are no more services to cut.

“Next year will be a make or break moment for adult social care, for local services provided by councils and for the NHS. The next government must make sure that the next spending review puts adult social care on a sustainable financial footing. We can’t afford to waste this once-in-a-generation chance to get it right.”

Adass president David Pearson said the next general election was “an important touchstone for the future of adult social care”.

He said there were “real opportunities” to “transform services…to put the individual at the centre” through the implementation of the care act.

He said: “The proper funding of adult social care is critical in this and Adass looks forward to working with LGA to help inform this important national debate.” 

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