The 2.99% that councils can raise their council tax by without the need for a referendum still wont be enough to plug the funding shortfall and prevent more cutbacks in services for older and disabled people, according to the Local Government Association.
Research by the LGA reveals that although 83 social care authorities can still levy an extra social care precept of up to 2% this year (up to 4.99% with the general flexibility), 67 (44%) are unable to do so.
The adult social care precept rises will raise an extra £197 million in total to pay for adult social care services this year, but the LGA warns that this does not make up for the £290 million cost to councils of paying for the rise in the government’s national living wage, which goes up by 4.9% from April 1 for workers aged 25 and over to £8.21 per hour. .
The LGA has estimated that even if all councils used their council tax flexibilities to the maximum allowed, adult social care services still face a funding gap of at least £1bn in 2019-20 just to maintain existing standards of care. This will rise to £3.6bn by 2025.
”The dignified care and support which older and disabled people deserve, such as help getting dressed, fed or getting out and about and generally being able to live the lives they want to lead, remains at risk,” the LGA said in a statement. ”Vital social care services will be unable to continue to help ease the pressure on the NHS while the threat of a care home crisis remains very real.
“Councils will have to divert funding from other cherished local services - such as bus services, parks, filling potholes, libraries and leisure centres - this year to try and protect adult social care services.”
The LGA is calling for the government to use its spending review to tackle the immediate adult social care funding gap and publish a comprehensive green paper on social care to find a truly long-term, sustainable funding solution to this adult social care crisis.
Councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care a year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day - and spend on adult social care now accounts for nearly 40% of total council budgets.
Richard Watts (Lab), chair of the LGA’s resources board claims that adult social care is now “at breaking point”.
“Extra council tax income for adult social care has been helpful in recent years. For many, that option has run out this year and the extra money the rest will raise will do little to prevent those who rely on services seeing the quality and quantity reduce,” he said.
“Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system. It has raised different amounts of money in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, and risked adding an extra financial burden on households.
“Investing in social care is the best way to keep people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community. This is not only good for our loved ones but is proven to alleviate pressure on the NHS.”