Cuts to social care will continue this year despite ministers putting in an extra £1bn to halt the deterioration in services, senior council officials have said.
Local authorities in England plan to make £824m of savings in their social care budgets in 2017-18, according to research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).
Older people who rely on councils to provide personal services at home or places in care homes will be hit again as social service departments struggle to reconcile rising demand and increasing costs with limited budgets, it warns.
Efforts to keep older people healthier at home, so they avoid unnecessary stays in hospitals, will also be reduced as councils switch money from prevention work into their general social care budget.
Despite more cash from both the government and the increased 3% precept on council tax bills for social care, the system “still remains on a cliff edge” as a result of deep cuts in recent years, Adass said.
“The welcome £2bn [over three years]in funding will help close the funding gap facing adult social care, yet councils still plan to make further savings of £824m this year, which will impact on those that receive care,” said Margaret Wilcox, the organisation’s president.
“This is because more older and disabled people are living longer and with increasingly complex support needs, as well as financial pressures caused by the welcome ‘national living wage’ and other cost pressures, including emerging ones from the NHS, such as fines for delayed transfers of care.”
The £2bn for social care – the first £1bn to come in this financial year – announced by chancellor Philip Hammond in March’s budget helped avoid “a precipice in social care”. But need rising by 2.8% a year and costs growing by £378.5m will force councils to cut further the amount of social care they provide, even though the amount they spend on it will increase by 8% to £14.2bn this year.
Adass’s annual survey of social care budgets, based on information from 95% of all councils, is very gloomy about the sector’s prospects this year. More care home providers are set to hand back contracts and cease operating because they cannot make money any more.
The survey also bore out claims made on Tuesday by NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts, that many councils are not using the £1bn on action to schemes specifically designed to speed up patients’ discharge from hospital. Only a third have done so, Adass found.
“Given the huge pressures facing social care services, expecting this money to double up by coming to the aid of the NHS was always likely to prove to be a triumph of hope over expectation”, said Richard Humphries, an expert in social care at the King’s Fund health thinktank.
A government spokesperson said: “We have already invested an additional £2bn to relieve short-term pressures across the health and care system. However, we know we need to ensure the system is prepared to meet the challenges of an ageing population, which is why we will be consulting on options to improve social care and put it on a more secure financial footing.”