Enough is enough on social care cuts, sector tells government ahead of spending review

Council chiefs, charities, providers and NHS make joint call for government to protect social care to stave off provider failure and significant rise in unmet need

Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. Photo: ADASS
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. Photo: ADASS

The government must protect adult social care from further cuts to avoid substantial increases in unmet need, large numbers of providers leaving the market and significant extra pressures on carers and the NHS.

That was the message from sector leaders from local government, charities, the provider sector and the NHS in what they described as an unprecedented joint call for the government to safeguard funding for the sector over the coming years.

Reduced dignity

The submission to the government’s spending review, which reports on 25 November and will set spending limits in England from 2016-20, said year-on-year cuts since 2010 threatened the dignity of older and disabled people and their carers and the sustainability of the care market and the NHS.

It said that ministers had to ensure that councils could protect social care funding against inflation, the increased demand from the rising number of people in need each year and the costs of new policies, notably the so-called “national living wage”, which will substantially increase employment costs in the sector.

Were the government not to take this step, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Ray James said the consequences would be stark:

We would see councils forced to ever more tightly ration care. Fewer people would get services; the size of packages would reduce. Some care providers would exit the market.”

The submission was signed by the Adass, NHS Confederation, the Care Providers Alliance, which represents provider umbrella bodies, and the Care and Support Alliance, a coalition of charities and other organisations supporting older and disabled people.

James said this showed that directors setting adults’ services budgets, charities seeing the effects of cuts on service users’ and carers’ lives, providers worried about their bottom lines and health chiefs concerned about the impact of social care cuts on the NHS, were of one mind about the need to end cuts.

The social care funding crisis in numbers

  • From 2009-10 to 2014-15, total adults’ services spending by councils fell by 8% in real terms, official figures show, despite councils receiving annual transfers of cash from the NHS for social care from 2011-12 onwards.
  • But this understates the impact on unmet need because of substantial rises in the number of people with care and support needs, due to demography. The number of people with multiple long-term conditions is expected to increase by more than 50% from 2008-18, said the submission.
  • Because of these demographic pressures councils would need an extra £700m a year every year up to 2019-20 to maintain access to services at current levels, according to the Local Government Association.
  • The number of adults receiving social services from councils fell by over 500,000 from 1,782,000 to 1,273,000 people from 2008-9 to 2013-14, official figures show.
  • It is not clear whether council spending on adult social care will fall in 2015-16 in real terms, as this will depend on the extent to which cuts in direct government funding to councils were mitigated by the transfer of NHS resources to council care budgets through the Better Care Fund.

James said he thought the seriousness of the funding problems facing social care was starting to be understood by government, but the impact of this on the spending review was unclear.

“How much they fund, what strings will be attached and whether they fund the growing gap as well as the cost of the living wage remains to be seen,” he added.

More cuts to come

The purpose of the spending review is to eliminate the government’s public spending deficit by 2019-20 by reducing annual spending by £20bn. While some funding areas are fully or partly protected from cuts, local government is unprotected. The government has asked departments responsible for unprotected funding areas to model real-terms savings of 25% and 40% to budgets by 2019-20.

The NHS is one of the protected areas and has been promised an increase of £10bn in funding in real-terms from 2014-15 to 2020-21, in response to calls from NHS England chief Simon Stevens for increased resource to tackle mounting pressures on the service.

Since 2011-12, the NHS has been mandated to transfer some funding to councils to spend on adult social care, and this is now enshrined in law through the Better Care Fund (BCF).

There is some expectation that the government will use the extra funding being directed at the NHS to help adult social care mitigate the cuts expected to local government through the BCF. However, James warned that Stevens’ estimate of NHS resource requirements was predicated on social care funding being protected – not of NHS resources being recycled to help social care.

“I am sure colleagues in the NHS will say that they need all of that extra money,” he added.

3 Responses to Enough is enough on social care cuts, sector tells government ahead of spending review

  1. Fred September 21, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    There is absolutely no doubt at all what the Government plan is. Having devasted services for our most vulnerable adults through huge cuts to local authority budgets, their next move will be find that it is the local authorites entirely to blame and announce that in the “interests of service users and the general public” that arrangements for social care should be moved from the state sector to the private sector.
    Of course at the same time they will be saying that the cuts are not doctrinare or idealogical, and that the increased suicides of people with disabilities who have had their benefits and services cut are “coincidental”.
    Whilst the vulnerable are being targeted for cuts, the bankers and hedge fund managers who caused the financial mess and of course fund the Conservative Party are swimming in gravy dolled out in tax cuts. This must be what Mr Osborne meant when he said “we are all in it together”.

  2. Academic September 21, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    The government wants to reduce spending by £20 billion by 2020. The cost of replacing Trident is estimated to be £100 billion. Maintaining current adult provision would cost around £700 million per year until 2020.
    Scrapping Trident would fully fund adult social care until 2020 and we could also afford to cover tuition fees for University students. However, we have to get our priorities right bombs that destroy us all are better than caring for older people and educating our young people.

  3. Blair McPherson September 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    Adass, NHS conference and the Local Government Association should not be asking for an end to budget cuts to adult social care but a restoration of the budget , a reverse of the cuts imposed over the last 5 years. The government should have ring fenced adult social care as it always has the schools budget. It was totally incompetent to cut adult social services and not take into account the impact on the NHS.