The government has found an extra £74m to help local authorities manage pressures on social care and provide welfare support for residents in 2015-16, it confirmed today.
The money will go to the 152 local authorities with social services responsibilities and is additional to the £37m in additional funding announced last month for councils to reduce delayed discharges in the rest of the 2014-15 financial year.
The additional funding announced today by local government minister Kris Hopkins, as he confirmed the local government funding settlement for 2015-16, came following lobbying by local government leaders.
“In response to representations during consultation, we have now decided to allocate an additional £74 million to upper tier authorities, to assist them in dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care,” he said.
Welfare grant scrapped
The lobbying centred on the pressures on adult social care and the government’s decision to end a specific grant worth £172m a year to provide welfare assistance to people in poverty. The welfare support grant had been given to local authorities from 2013-14 to compensate for the government’s abolition of community care grants and crisis loans that had been provided under the Social Fund.
Hopkins said the changes meant that the fall in local authorities’ spending power – the expected change in their budgets in cash terms from 2014-15 to 2015-16 when money from council tax as well as government funding is taken into account – would be 1.7%.
Dispute over level of cuts
This figure is vigorously disputed by the Local Government Association, which says that it is based on the assumption that all of the £3.46bn that the NHS will be putting into Better Care Fund – the integrated health and social care budget that commences in 2015-16 – should count as local government resource.
However, the LGA argues that, at most, £1.97bn of this money would be spent on social care or local government-commissioned services, meaning the actual reduction in spending power would be 4.6%.
The association welcomed the additional £74m saying it would “provide a lifeline to some of [councils’] most vulnerable residents”.
However, LGA chair David Sparks said: “This still amounts to a reduction of almost £100 million in government funding for local welfare. At a time when councils are tackling the biggest funding cuts in living memory, many areas will struggle to protect their local support scheme from this cut from April. This is also unlikely to have a meaningful impact in alleviating the huge pressures on adult social care.”