Action needed to plug financial hole, says ADASS

James Bullion, ADASS president

Only 4% of council directors for adult social services are ‘fully confident’ their budget will be enough to meet their statutory duties this year, down from 35% in 2019/20.

More than a third (35%) indicated they have no confidence in their budgets being enough to meet all their statutory duties this year.

For 2021/22, 76% of directors have either ‘partial confidence’ or ‘no confidence’ their budgets will be enough to meet all of their duties. Not one director out of the 146 that responded to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)’s budget survey indicated they were ‘fully confident’.

The findings have been revealed in the second of its two reports that have been published over the past week.

Budgeted spend by councils on adult social care rose from £14.8bn in 2018/19 to £15.1bn in 2019/20. Actual spend last financial year was £15.3bn, some £197m over budget. Councils have budgeted to spend £15.7bn this year.

Before the pandemic, directors had planned to make savings to their adult social care budgets of £608m in 2020/21. However, nearly three-quarters of directors indicated over 60% of their planned savings were at risk.

Directors fear they will see either ‘significant’ or ‘very significant’ reductions in income from charging people for care, known as client contributions, for 2020/21 because of Covid-19. This is likely to result in a minimum of £190m in lost income for councils in England.

The downturn in client contribution is likely to be result of the NHS temporarily paying for care packages to support hospital discharge, reduced occupancy in care homes, the temporary cut of transport services and the closure of day and other community services.

As a result of Covid-19, around three quarters of councils have seen a fall in occupancy of residential and nursing homes used mainly by state-funded residents. Over half have seen a decline in occupancy in homes mainly for self-funders.

The document said the findings were ‘perhaps unsurprising’ given that a report commissioned by Local Government Association and ADASS, and undertaken by LaingBuisson, calculated councils may face up to £6.6bn in extra costs from personal protective equipment, staffing and deep cleans, due to coronavirus by the end of September.

ADASS is calling for a two-year ringfenced funding settlement for adult social care to cover; a new employment deal for care staff, including a workforce strategy; reform of the care provider market based on sustainable new business models; a consultation programme on care and support for now and over the next 10–20 years.

James Bullion, ADASS president, said: ‘These reports are a wake-up call that requires a clear response. Urgent action is needed to plug the financial black hole that has been blown in local government finances, to properly recognise and reward colleagues working in social care, stabilise providers of care and most importantly safeguard and ultimately enhance the care and support available to those of us who need it.

‘Without such action, local authorities will run out of money, care providers will go to the wall, many of us will not get the care and support we need, and the economy will take a further hit as more of us are forced to give up work to fill the caring gaps. Prioritising social care is the right thing to do morally, ethically, economically and politically. We must act now, for all our sakes.’

The government has provided local authorities £3.2bn of emergency funding during the pandemic and additional £600m for infection control in care homes. In March, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock wrote to MPs urging them to come forward to help secure cross-party consensus on adult social care. Government plans for social care are due to be published this year.