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Social care crisis 'not just about the old' warns LGA

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Funding pressures hampering councils’ ability to deliver social care services are far from exclusively related to the elderly, figures released by the Local Government Association show.

It said one-third of English councils’ social-care spending – approximately £5bn – went on adults with learning disabilities, and that the number of such care users was projected to rise at a rate of 3% a year.

The LGA said NHS Digital data for 2015-16 showed 143,705 adults in England received long-term social care from their local council for a learning disability, and that 89% of those care recipients were aged under 65. A total of 873,000 people were assessed as needing long-term care and support in the year.

It said caring for adults with learning disabilities was much more expensive than for other groups, and that the effect of thousands of new service users would be one of “piling further pressures on local authority finances”.

Last week LGC reported how the government was preparing to make additional funds available for social care in next week’s Budget, but it would be linked to reducing hospital delayed discharges and councils would face inspections by the Care Quality Commission.

LGA community wellbeing spokeswoman Izzi Seccombe (Con), called on the government to use the Budget to address the funding issues affecting the whole of the adult care system, not just those with knock-on effects for hospital beds.

“Social care is about far more than just supporting our older citizens,” she said.

“Without new money, the support provided to adults with learning disabilities and those other groups who have care needs will be seriously under threat.

“We need the government to deliver a long-term, sustainable solution to solve the social care funding crisis, and not more short-term fixes.

“A young person with a learning disability who has their whole life ahead of them needs to know they have a social care system that will be there for them in the decades ahead.”

The LGA estimates there is a £2.6bn gap between social care need and resource over the years to 2020.

The association argues that one effect of the funding pressure is that fewer people with learning difficulties are being helped to find work.

Rossanna Trudgian, head of campaigns at charity Mencap, said people with a learning disability were struggling to get the support they needed to live independent lives and increasingly found themselves stuck at home becoming isolated and worried about the future.

“Short-term solutions such as the social care precept are inadequate and will fail to bring the sector back from breaking point, the funding gap is too big,” she said.

“The budget presents a real opportunity to make social care a priority and avoid increasing numbers of people missing out on the support they rely on, and moving closer into poverty and sickness.”

Communities secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement last year that councils would be allowed to increase the ”care precept” element of council tax by up to 3% to help fund social care has been widely denounced as a fudge by the sector.

Swale BC chief executive Abdool Kara, who will next week join the National Audit Office as executive leader of local services, yesterday became the latest senior local government figure to denounce Javid’s claims for the precept hike.

He told LGC that Javid’s repeated suggestion that the finance settlement contained up to £900m of “additional” funding for social care was “disingenuous” and “in the realms of alternative facts”.

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