Underfunding social care is making it “impossible” for councils to meet legal duties to vulnerable people under the Care Act, the Local Government Association has warned.
The organisation’s budget submission, published today, says the act would “fail” unless the government finds new money to alleviate the social care crisis, which has left support for vulnerable people at risk and councils facing the prospect of legal challenges.
The Care Act, which came into force in 2014, set out councils’ responsibilities over the support provided to vulnerable people and their carers. These included requirements for councils to arrange services that help prevent or delay a person’s condition deteriorating, and develop a care market that delivers a wide-range of sustainable and high quality support services.
The LGA has said recent government measures, including allowing councils to raise the social care precept by 3% in the next two financial years and diverting £241m from the new homes bonus in 2017-18 to adult social care, would not reduce a projected £2.6bn funding shortfall in social care by 2020.
It warned chronic underfunding was “threatening the very spirit” of the Care Act and called for the government to be “open and upfront” with the public over the limitations of care that can be provided without new funding.
The LGA added these could include only meeting basic needs such as helping people get out of bed, instead of enabling people to “enjoy fulfilling, independent lives at home in the community rather than a hospital ward”.
The submission also called on the government to publish contingency plans on how to deal with “major failure” in the care provider market.
The LGA cited research by the UK Homecare Association which found 50% of providers decided against bidding for council contracts on the basis of price in 2014-15. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services budget survey 2016 also found many councils had experienced providers in the home care or residential sector cease trading in the previous six months.
The LGA called on the government to reverse the decision to recycle new homes bonus funding to social care for 2017-18 and finance it with new money instead.
The sector should also be directly involved in the government’s current review of social care, the LGA said.
Izzi Seccombe (Con), chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said the “intentions and spirit” of the Care Act were in “grave danger of falling apart and failing unless new funding is announced by government for adult social care”.
She said: “It is not good enough just to be trying to help someone get washed and dressed.
“Adult social care is about much more than this. It is about aspiring to help people live their lives to the fullest, and with dignity, not simply just get by. This is the great strength of the Care Act, which unfortunately is now at risk.”
The submission said current projections show there would be an overall funding gap in local government of at least £5.8bn by 2019-20.
It warned this would include a £1.9bn shortfall in children’s services. The LGA called on the government to allow councils to use newly retained business rates to plug service gaps before devolving any further responsibilities on the sector are considered.
The LGA also said private developers and housing associations alone cannot provide the level of housing needed to meet demand.
Among a number of measures, the LGA called for councils to be freed from borrowing restrictions to build homes. It also wants to establish a long-term financial framework that enables councils to invest, including the removal of housing revenue account borrowing from contributing to public debt.