Councils have raised concerns about the difficulty of implementing the Social Work Task Force reforms while being asked to raise £250m a year to fund free personal care for adults.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and Association of Directors of Children’s Services said “sustained investment in frontline services” was urgently needed to enable councils to meet new requirements on support for frontline social workers.
Ministers are due to make an announcement on how the recommendations will be funded in an implementation plan expected early next year.
However, at the launch of the report last week children’s secretary Ed Balls said any additional funding would not be ringfenced.
John Jackson, joint chair of the resource network at Adass, said: “At the same time that the government is making this announcement, it is also expecting local authorities to contribute £125m next year and £250m in a full year towards the costs of free personal care.”
The Department of Health has costed the free personal care policy at £670m a year, with the government contributing £420m and councils expected to find remaining £250m from efficiency savings.
Moira Gibb, chair of the taskforce, said last week that she “would have much preferred to have been doing this 10 years ago when the reforms to the teaching profession were happening”.
However, social care consultant Melanie Henwood said “detailed work on the level of investment and how best to support developments” was needed.
“Although not everything can be achieved overnight, we cannot afford – as a society – to delay implementation of these vital reforms until such a time as conditions are more favourable.”
The chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence, Allan Bowman, backed Gibb’s suggestion that existing resources could be used more effectively.
“Not all improvements depend on new money,” Bowman said, but he went on to emphasise that “investment in social workers is essential if this report is to achieve its objectives”.
Bowman’s plea for greater funding was backed up by Laurie Thraves, policy analyst at the Local Government Information Unit, who said the profession deserved this even in the context of public spending cuts during the recession.
“The investment that the SWTF requires would create a professionalised workforce – not another quango,” Thraves said. “That’s the kind of spending that will increase productivity and reduce costs – because practitioners make better decisions about resource allocation than Whitehall bureaucrats. It’s the kind of spending that politicians from all parties can – and should – support.”