The government’s controversial free personal care plan is underfunded and underestimates demand, local government leaders and a care organisation have claimed.
In their responses to the consultation on the Personal Care at Home Bill, the Local Government Association and the United Kingdom Home Care Association said councils would have problems funding the scheme, which could have consequences for providers and other service users.
The bill has reached committee stage in the House of Lords, where it has been subjected to fierce criticisms because of its overall funding proposals requiring councils to contribute £250m from efficiency savings. The government has said it will provide £420m towards the total £670m bill.
The LGA said it still had “serious reservations” about the predicted demand level and feared that councils would be left to pick up the costs from any extra demand that may “require cuts to other adult social care services”.
It added that the planned implementation date of 1 October would present problems because local authorities did not have a set of efficiency savings available for new initiatives, including the Personal Care at Home Bill.
It said: “Since council budgets for the next financial year will already have been set, it is inappropriate to require an additional £250m from them,” and called on the government to pick up any additional costs.
The UKHCA said a lack of funding would lead councils to slash fees for independent providers, putting downward pressure on wages and exacerbating the already high rates of staff turnover in the sector.
UKHCA chairman Mike Padgham said: “We would like the government to reassure homecare providers that central and local government together will fund free personal care adequately.
“The independent homecare sector will struggle to meet the extra demands of free personal care if local authorities have insufficient funds to meet providers’ costs of supplying high quality, effective, homecare services.”
Under the bill, 277,000 people would benefit from free care at home, including 111,000 who now pay for services, out of an estimated 1.8 million care users in England.
The bill’s other measure – to provide reablement services to people entering the care system – would benefit an estimated 130,000 people a year, and cost an estimated £130m a year.