Social care funding for the elderly and disabled is in danger of spiralling into a £4.3 billion black hole by the end of the decade, experts are warning.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) say the alarming figure represents almost a third of the current annual spend on adult social care.
Thousands of disabled and elderly adults face an uncertainty over how their future care will be funded, including vital home care services such as meals on wheels.
Experts warn that successful integration of health and social care is vital to prevent the system from “spiralling into a black hole” under the strain of a rapidly ageing society, government funding cuts and rising demand.
Research shows that last year alone local authorities were forced to divert £900 million funding from other areas, just to maintain the current level of spending on social care services.
Despite already having been forced to make efficiency savings as a result of Chancellor George Osborne’s austerity cuts, councils will have to find £4.3 billion in savings by 2020 just to keep local social care services afloat. Experts warn that this comes on top of councils already having saved £3.5 billion on social care spending since 2010.
Local authorities will continue to fund social care for the next year but there is a limit on the efficiency savings they can be expected to achieve, especially as demand on services continues to grow.
Social care services will face a ‘critical point’ in England in just six months, as funding is pooled from councils and the health service through the Better Care Fund (BCF) and the introduction of the Care Act.
Experts are preparing to gather at the largest social care conference in the country this week, say the LGA. It is expected that social care experts will call for more money to be brought into health and social care, in order to protect care for future generations. They say that without more funding some services could be tipped over the edge.
Cllr David Sparks, said:
“These new figures are further proof that we need to stop vital adult social care services spiralling into a black hole. We must act now to both improve quality of life for people in their older years and steer England’s social care system away from the road to financial ruin.
“It’s not right that councils are taking the biggest hit in the pocket when we compare funding for delivering health and care services. We should all be working together to increase the ambition for a future of integrated health and social care that will deliver the best possible care to those who need it.
“Too many older people are being let down by a system which leaves them languishing in hospital beds while they wait for an alternative, or consigned to residential care because we lack the capacity to help them live independently. This has to stop.
“Councils have worked incredibly hard to prioritise adult social care at a time when councils have had to find over £3.5 billion pounds worth of savings in their adult social care budgets. This has still not been nearly enough to close the funding gap. In just six months, councils are expected to bring in crucial changes to make care better for everyone. The clock is now ticking for government to get the funding right to make sure these do not fail before they have even begun.
“The Government should not be knowingly backing councils into a corner where they have to make impossible decisions about cutting other important services just to continue to manage caring and supporting our most vulnerable. We can’t stress enough the impact this will have on communities, and of course we must start asking the question about what happens when we have made all of the efficiencies and there are no more services to cut.
“Next year will be a make or break moment for adult social care, for local services provided by councils and for the NHS. The next government must make sure that the next spending review puts adult social care on a sustainable financial footing. We can’t afford to waste this once-in-a-generation chance to get it right.”
ADASS President David Pearson, said: “The next General Election is an important touchstone for the future of adult social care. There are real opportunities ahead of us to realise the full ambitions of the Care Act and to continue to transform services and support to put the individual at the centre.
“The proper funding of adult social care is critical in this and ADASS looks forward to working with LGA to help inform this important national debate.”