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Spending watchdog warns of care cuts risk

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The government’s spending watchdog has raised concerns that central and local government are unsure whether social care services can cope with further cuts.

In a report published today, the National Audit Office said local authorities did not know “if the limits of the capacity of the care system to continue to absorb pressures are being approached”.

It said these pressures were caused by increasing demand and falling resources.

The report, Adult Social Care in England: Overview, also said benefit cuts introduced by the Department for Work & Pensions could place extra pressure on adult care by putting “further strain on care users’ ability to pay for their own care and for informal carers to provide support”.

The NAO said it would be “challenging” for councils to plan for the changes due to be introduced by the Care Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

The legislation would “introduce significant changes for local authorities which will be challenging to plan for because of a lack of information, lack of evidence on what works and short timescales”, it said.

It added there was “weak evidence” about which were the most cost-effective ways of commissioning and providing services.

An LGA spokesman said the report “endorses what local government has been saying for a long time – that adult social care funding needs to be put on a sustainable footing or social care services will remain substantially underfunded and will suffer as a result”.

Sandie Keene, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, described the doubt over the “capacity of the system to absorb pressures” as an “understatement”.

“Ever since our 2013 budget survey, quoted by the NAO, was published, we have warned of a bleak situation emerging for social care, getting bleaker,” she said.

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