Funding to compensate adult social care for cuts to council budgets in today’s spending review will not be ring-fenced, it has emerged.
Documents released by the government show adult social care will receive an additional £2.1bn a year in funding by 2014-15 compared with 2010-11 levels.
But this money will not be ring-fenced.
The additional money comes in two parts. Half of the extra money (£1.1bn) will come from an increase in Department of Health funding for councils. But this will be rolled in to councils’ general grant, which is not ring-fenced.
The rest of the extra money for adult care will come from the NHS. The money will be allocated to primary care trusts – and new GP consortia 2013 – to spend on social care measures that benefit the NHS, such as reablement. There is no indication as yet as to how NHS commissioners will be held to account for spending this money.
The additional £2.1bn is intended to help adult social care cope with massive cuts in government funding for councils. But even taking into account the extra £1.1bn from the DH for councils, government spending on councils is set to fall by 28% from 2011-15.
This is likely to translate into an overall cut of 14% in council budgets when increases in council tax are included.
The compensating funding received a cautious welcome from social care leaders.
Richard Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said it was recognition of the social care funding crisis but he added: “We’ve no idea whether it sits in health or across us. It’s positive though in as much as there’s some recognition, but is it as the level of the challenge? Probably not.”
Andrew Cozens, strategic adviser for children, adults and health services for Adass, said that he was not concerned that the extra social care funding was not ring-fenced.
“Councils tell us they have prioritised adult social care,” he said.
“The devil is in the details and we won’t have that until next month probably but we welcome additional investment in adult social care and in the current climate that’s very important.”
Richard Harbord, chair of the social care panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said it would be hard to ensure that the additional funding reached social care. “The NHS has been very resistant to putting up money for joint working with social services in the past. It’s going to be very difficult for central government to keep its eye on all of this.”
The NHS Confederation welcomed the announcement. Acting chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “Much of the extra NHS money being used for social care would probably have been spent on this anyway. This announcement means this can now be done in planned way, rather than in a patient-by-patient haphazard fashion.
“The extra money going to councils for social care is also good news. But we do need to be cautious because the money is not ring fenced. With severe pressure on council budgets, we are worried that these funds will not get through to the people who need it.”
“The additional £2bn is welcome but it is still unclear whether the total going into social care will allow for older people with a range of needs to be supported,” said WRVS chief executive Lynne Berry.
“Investing in preventing ill health among old people is not a ‘nice to have’ service, but is essential. The chancellor’s emphasis on the need for health and social care to work together better is also welcome. However, we have a long way to go, given the tiny number of councils that invest in joint working, so we will be urging ministers to take a lead in accelerating this activity.”
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers also welcomed the additional funds but warned that the impact on carers could be outweighed by the £7bn a year in additional benefit reductions announced today by George Osborne.
“We feel there is a real risk that support provided by social care will be wiped out by the loss of the family household income through benefit reductions,” said chief executive Carole Cochrane.
“Our latest research revealed the perilous financial situation that carers are already in, with one in three carers not wanting to wake up in the morning because of their dire financial circumstances. Carers and their families can’t afford to lose any more.”
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