There is a large and growing gap between the costs of adult care services run by English councils and the cheaper provision in the independent sector, government figures last week revealed.
The annual analysis of personal social services costs, by care statistics body The Information Centre, found weekly unit costs for care were significantly lower for services commissioned from independent providers by councils, compared to those they provided themselves.
The cost of independent sector residential care for older people was 56% of the council figure for people with mental health problems it was 67%, for physically disabled people 70%, and learning disabled people 74%. Hourly home care costs across all client groups in the independent sector were 57% of the total for council provision.
The figures also showed fast real-terms growth overall in residential care costs in learning disabilities and mental health from 2005-6 to 2006-7, with rises in the unit cost of council provision (19% for learning disabilities 26% for mental health) far outstripping those for the independent sector (5% 4.5%) .
Levels of need
James Churchill, chief executive of the Association of Real Change, which represents learning disabilities providers, said the overall rise in residential care costs reflected the higher level of need presented by the average resident, due to demographic and service trends.
He said not only were more people with severe learning disabilities living longer, but those with the highest level of need had moved out of NHS provision into residential care, while those who had lower-level needs were no longer being placed in residential care, but in supported living.
Overall residential care costs rose far more slowly in the older people’s sector, though council costs increased by almost 3% in real-terms compared to less than 1% for independent providers. However, the reverse was true in the physical disabilities sector, where council residential care costs fell in real terms.
Children’s services outstripping adult care in funding growth
PSS expenditure and unit costs, England
Contact the author
This article appeared in the 14 February issue under the headline “Independents prove more cost effective than councils”