The chancellor must bring forward £1.5bn worth of funding from the Better Care Fund (BCF) in order to prop up the social care sector for the year ahead, the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLG) has announced.
In a scathing report published by the committee, the government was also told to commit to closing the funding gap for the rest of Parliament. MPs asked the National Audit Office to build on its earlier work in this area in order to analyse the amount of funding the government will need to find for 2018-18 and 2019-20, but emphasised the “urgent need for a review, ideally cross-party” of social care funding in the long term.
The committee also noted that since 2010, the core grant councils receive from central government had reduced whilst social care budgets have faced increasing cost pressures, including from an ageing population with complex care needs.
The CLG did however praise some of the action that had been taken to plug the social care gap, including the social care precept and the improved BCF – but found that these measures were still failing to make the gap in funding any less daunting.
It was also taken into account that there were a number of concerns about the variation in the amount councils were raising, and that the adult social care support grant was simply a reprioritisation of funding from the New Homes Bonus.
Overall, the social care gap is expected to range from £1.3bn to £1.9bn in 2017-18 and £1.1bn to £2.6bn in 2019-20.
Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said: “The adult social care sector provides care and support to adults of all ages with care needs to enable them to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Throughout our inquiry we have heard powerful evidence from all parts of the sector, including people who receive council-funded social care services, about the stress the system is under.
“The government should bring forward £1.5bn from the improved BCF to help social care services meet the immediate pressures over the next year and then commit to closing the funding gap up to 2020.
“While short-term action is vital, there are funding, structural, and other problems facing the social care sector in the medium- and long-term which we shall be addressing in our final report published next month”.
Margaret Willcox, president elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said the report validated “the entire sector’s warnings about the escalating crisis” facing social care, as well as the growing struggle by older and disabled people to access vital support and council’s shrinking ability to fund this.
“It reinforces our call for the need for immediate extra money and for the funding gap to 2020 to be plugged. We welcome the suggestion that the National Audit Office should establish the sufficiency of funding,” added Willcox.
“With the social care precept raising less in areas with the greatest need and not covering the costs of the welcome National Living Wage. The report rightly calls for the improved BCF to be brought forward to address immediate, severe pressures in the year ahead.”
Willcox added that councils had protected their adult social care budgets as far as possible, but were struggling to find any more efficiency savings.
“With care homes closing, councils projecting in-year overspends of almost £450m, services are in significant and increasing jeopardy,” she continued. “The government needs to use next week’s Budget to announce genuine new money to fund social care, otherwise the worrying consequences for older and disabled people, their families and carers, will continue.”
Richard Humphries, senior policy fellow at major health think tank The King’s Fund, argued that the CLG report added to the “overwhelming evidence” that the social care system “is on its knees”. The think tank currently estimates the sector faces a funding black hole of around £2bn next year, in line with the committee’s predictions.
“Additional funding in the Budget would provide welcome relief for older and disabled people, their families and carers who are being let down by the current system – and for hard-pressed councils and providers struggling to keep it afloat”,” he added.
“But without long-term reform of social care funding, this is like pouring water into a leaking bucket. Successive governments have failed to meet this challenge. If the prime minister really believes in a country that works for everyone, it is a challenge her government cannot afford to duck.”