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Adass budget survey: Social care overspend doubles

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“Difficult decisions” are required over further cuts to adult social care services despite extra funding, a survey of 151 councils has found.

The annual budget survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, published today, said directors were finding it increasingly difficult to implement planned cuts due to a reported overspend in 2016-17 budgets of £366m. This compares to £168m the year before.

Despite an extra £2bn being made available in the Spring budget and an option to impose a social care council tax precept of 3% in each of the next two years, directors report planning to make savings of £824m in 2017-18, taking cumulative cuts since 2010 to £6.3bn.

Cost pressures due to the increased numbers of people needing care in 2017-18 continues to be just under 3% per year, equating to an additional £400m spending required in 2017-18. But for the first time cost pressures relating to support for younger adults were greater than services for older people, at 1.7% and 1.1% respectively. 

The report adds that the proportion of council spending on adult social care will increase this year to 36.9% - up slightly on last year.

While gross social care budgets increased to reflect the additional funding, individual net positions have varied from +28% to -15%, the survey found.

The report says this was due to differences in local circumstances and raises the possibility that some directors are coming under pressure to accept savings that “may not be achievable in practice”.

Only a third of directors said they were fully confident of making the savings asked of them this year, which is in line with last year. However, confidence falls for subsequent years, with just 7% fully confident that savings targets would be met in 2019-20.

The number of councils planning to make savings through efficiencies has remained consistent with last year at 55%, but the proportion planning to make savings from service reductions has fallen from 39% in 2016-17 to 19.5% this year.

However, 53% of directors said planned savings would directly impact on older people, with 46% saying younger adults would be affected.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said prevention and early intervention was very important for making savings, followed by better procurement (51%) and shifting activity to cheaper settings (45%). 

Adass president Margaret Willcox called on the government to address the “chronic” underfunding of adult social care “which still remains at a cliff edge.”

She added: “The need for a long-term solution to establish a strong and sustainable health and care system in the most fair and affordable way has never been more urgent or vital.”

Ms Willcox urged to honour its commitment to publish a green paper on the future sustainability of social care, adding that taxation or a form of social insurance should be considered.  

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