Spending on adult social care went down by £250m last year, according to a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Local Government Association published today.
Despite well-documented pressures on adult care, expenditure fell from £12.84bn in 2006-7 to an estimated £12.59bn in 2007-8 among English councils.
Tony Hunter, co-chair of the Adass resources network, explained the reduction in spending was due to improvements in performance and pooled spending with other agencies.
Better use of technology reduced the time social workers spent on paperwork, said Hunter, director of supported living and community safety at Liverpool Council. He added “streamlined processes” and multi-agency partnerships with the NHS have made assessments and care management more efficient.
And councils were expected to have reduced their annual adult care overspend from £580,000 to £240,000 on average, equivalent to 0.3% of the service budget.
Progress against Putting People First
The survey suggested councils were making progress against the objectives of the government’s Putting People First agenda to create a more preventive and personalised care system in England.
In terms of prevention, councils were on course to have spent £263m on services which do not require a formal assessment in 2007-8, compared to £245m in 2006-7.
Take-up of direct payments by service users increased by almost a quarter, from 216 to 269 per authority, with increases of 36% for people with learning disabilities and 34% for older people. The latter group has traditionally had low take-up of direct payments.
In total, English councils were expected to have spent in 2007-8:
- £6.8bn on older people’s care
- £3.14bn on learning disabilities, a 1.7% increase on 2006-7, the only area where costs rose
- £1.3bn on physical disabilities
- £950m on mental health
Learning disabilities is biggest cost pressure
The greatest cost pressure came from care home placements for people with learning disabilities, in terms of both numbers of service users and unit costs.
Independent nursing care for people with learning disabilities saw the sharpest rise in unit costs, up by 13% to £980 a week on average in 2007-8 compared to £867 in 2006-7.
James Churchill, chief executive of the Association for Real Change, which represents 400 learning disabilities providers, said this was due to “the closure in the last ten years of long-stay hospitals where people were basically warehoused in large units, and the movement towards small-scale units, with personalised care”.
Higher staff-to-service-user ratios made services more expensive, he added, and private companies were attracted by the “potentially good” profit margins.
Adass resources network