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Counties warn unfunded cap on care would cost £691m a year

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Introducing an unfunded cap on social care costs will push council services to the brink of collapse, county councils have warned.

The government has previously said it supports a cap on “punitive” costs, with the measure expected to be included in the government’s social care green paper which is now scheduled for the autumn after a series of delays.

A report on the future of social care published today by the County Councils Network says it supports a cap on costs but estimated an unfunded cap on individuals’ care costs of £50,000 would cost county councils £691m a year.

This is double the expected cost of the £72,000 cap included in the Care Act 2014 but subsequently abandoned by the government.

CCN said counties are facing a £1.6bn funding gap in social care by 2020-21, with the average county now spending 45% of its entire budget on supporting vulnerable adults.

It warns a failure to fund any new social care cap and provide new money to plug existing funding gaps will threaten the financial sustainability of county councils across England.

The CCN report also rejected calls for all or some social care responsibilities to be placed with the NHS on the grounds of democratic accountability, councils’ links to other services, and local government’s track record of “financial prudence and commissioning”.

It also suggested the funding gap in social care could be filled by national taxation and the means testing of both the winter fuel allowance and attendance allowance.

David Williams (Con), CCN spokesman for health and social care and leader of Hertfordshire CC, said counties have faced the biggest financial and demand-led pressures in the delivery and procurement of social care services, as well as enduring some of the largest cuts in core government grants since 2010.

He added: “The status quo is no longer an option; ministers must be bold in ensuring sustainable financial reform. With care services and the NHS interdependent investing in one but not the other is financially irresponsible.

“Above all, social care must continue to stay a local service and ministers should not be swayed by overly-simplistic arguments to combine all, or elements of social care within the NHS.”

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