Care services could be decommissioned, councils warn

Councillor David Williams, chairman-elect of the CCN

Council leaders may have to decommission care services in the coming months unless the government can confirm more than £2bn of funding will be made available next year.

The warning from the County Councils Network (CCN) has been revealed in its analysis, Adult social care funding and the Spending Review, which shows that £2.4bn for care services for the elderly and younger adults has yet to be confirmed by government. The amount makes up one-third of total government grants for councils.

Ahead of Chancellor Sajid Javid’s 12-month spending round on Wednesday 4 September, county leaders are calling on him to confirm all current funding for social care will continue next year.

Yesterday (28 August), the chancellor said there would be no ‘blank cheque’ but promised increased spending on schools, police and health.

Council leaders are also urging Javid to fund next year’s estimated £652m increase in the costs of delivering care due to rising demand and inflation. The 36 county authorities in England account for just under half of this at £314m.

The money would keep services as they are now but still leave councils facing a shortfall due to an existing overall funding gap of £5.2bn for all authorities next year, according to CCN projections.

Next year, all 151 care authorities will need to spend £17.3bn with £8.2bn worth of expenditure for the 36 county authorities.

Social care funding at risk include the Improved Better Care Fund, which is coming to the end of its three-year cycle in 2020, alongside social care and winter pressures grants.

CCN has said without the continued funding councils will soon have to begin making preparations to decommission frontline services and care packages for the elderly as they need to give providers sufficient notice.

Councillor David Williams, chairman-elect of the CCN and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: ‘It would be inconceivable that the temporary grants – particularly the Better Care Fund – that have allowed us to prop up care services and address pressures on the NHS over the past few years, will not continue. But we are still in the dark over whether this lifeline for care services will continue.

‘With budget planning for 2020/21 underway, we will reluctantly have to seek to decommission services that are directly funded by these grants in the coming months, in order to present a balanced budget next year – unless this funding is continued. We urge the chancellor to use next month’s spending review to commit to rolling over these grants.

‘This alone won’t be enough however. Councils in aggregate face an extra £650m costs next year due to rising demand and costs of delivering adult social care, with the bulk of this falling on county areas if we are to protect frontline services, the chancellor must provide councils with the resource to fully fund these pressures as a short-term measure ahead of genuine reform to the system.’