Council leaders are calling for “full flexibility” on how they use the £2 billion in social care funding announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Spring Budget, ahead of new guidance being written by the government on how councils should spend the extra funding.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has welcomed the extra funding and says it will help to improve adult social care, but warns it will not be enough to address to fully address wider problems in the system. There is also no guarantee that the extra funding will continue after 2019-20.
Councils are under pressure to use the extra money to help reduce pressures on the NHS, but the LGA says councils should be free to target the funding where it’s needed most. One in five social care referrals are to hospitals, according to the LGA, while other areas of the care system are also in dire need of extra cash – such as services supporting disabled people, and those with learning difficulties and mental health problems.
The LGA says the social care green paper, currently passing through parliament, may be “the last chance” for the government to fix the growing crisis in adult social care provision, adding the whole system needs a “massive overhaul” to ensure its long-term sustainability.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The £2 billion of extra funding announced over the next three years for social care, while not the solution to the crisis, is a significant step towards helping councils plug some of the social care funding gaps they face in the coming years.
“But we want assurances from ministers that councils will retain full flexibility to decide how best this money is used, so we can provide much-needed care and support for our older and disabled residents.
“Councils know where the pressures are in their local areas better than anyone else. It is also essential that there are no delays in releasing the money so that councils can provide extra care and maintain the services that would otherwise have been cut.
“Reducing pressures on our hospitals is important, but we must also remember that social care is about much more than just freeing up hospital bed space.
“It is about providing care and support for people to enable them to live more independent, fulfilled lives, not just older people, but those with mental health conditions, learning and physical disabilities.
“The funding announced in the Budget is just a starting point. It is critical that the Government’s Green Paper on social care includes local government leaders playing a central role in finding a long-term solution that reforms and fully funds our care system.
“This is essential if we are to do more than just help people out of bed and get washed and dressed but ensures people can live independent, fulfilling lives in the community, and relieve pressures on care providers and avoid widespread failure amongst organisations providing care.
“With councils facing further funding pressures and growing demand for support by the end of the decade, this is the last chance we have to get this right.”