Local Government Association chair Lord Porter (Con) has said the government will not remove social care funding this financial year from councils that have missed targets on delayed transfers of care from hospital.
Some councils have now received letters from health secretary Jeremy Hunt warning them that plans agreed with local health organisations would result in targets set by NHS England for reductions by November not being met.
During a plenary session this morning at the National Conference of Adult and Children’s Services Conference in Bournemouth, Suffolk CC leader Colin Noble (Con) confirmed that his council had received one of the letters from Mr Hunt that contain “varying degrees of naughty step”.
In response Lord Porter said the LGA had successfully made a case to the Department of Communities & Local Government that councils struggling to meet the targets should not have funding withdrawn this financial year.
He said: “The Wednesday meetings [with DCLG ministers] were one of the reasons why the proposed threats of having money taken away from you straight away didn’t happen.
[Communities secretary Sajid Javid] did play quite a strong card with Jeremy [Hunt] on that to make sure that what happens to the funding is in the future and you don’t lose the money they were proposing to take off you this year.”
Lord Porter advised Cllr Noble to do “what I always do with a letter from government”.
“If it doesn’t say the things you want it to do - i.e. there’s no threat that comes with it - throw it in the bin,” he added, followed by loud applause from the audience.
Lord Porter later told LGC that it was his understanding that the government is likely to direct councils on how they use their social care funding next year, if performance on delayed transfers was deemed not to have improved.
He added: “My understanding [is] resources will not be removed from areas where it is most needed, but next year there might be national direction on how funding is spent in specific areas.”
The LGA withdrew its support for the BCF planning guidance published in July. This had introduced the possibility that councils could have social care funding withdrawn if they were judged to be performing badly against a series of metrics focused on the interface between health and social care.
Later that month NHS England issued delayed transfer of care targets to be achieved by each council, based on their performance in February. This meant more than a third of councils were required to reduce delayed transfers attributable to social care by 50% or more.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers has today warned that the health secretary’s plan to take control of social care funding would further destabilise the health and social care system and would have “dire” consequences for vulnerable people.
Last month more than half of West Midlands councils rejected NHS England’s targets on delayed transfers of care and are calling on Jeremy Hunt to intervene to prevent them losing up to £150m funding as a result.