The Department of Health is underestimating the cost burden that key planks of the Care Act will place on local authorities, a local authority membership body has said.
The DH’s most recent impact assessment estimated that the total costs of extending carers rights in the Act will be £69.4m across England in 2015-16. But an analysis by London Councils found that the costs will be higher, with councils in London alone estimating a bill of £53.9m in 2015-16 – more than three-quarters (78%) of the DH’s estimate of the total cost nationally.
The Act strengthens the rights of carers to support. It places a duty on local authorities to assess carers’ needs regardless of what the council thinks is their level of need and regardless of their financial resources. Previously, councils were only required to assess carers’ needs if the carer asked for an assessment and they were deemed to be providing substantial care on a regular basis.
The Act also introduces a new duty on councils to meet a carer’s needs which meet the eligibility criteria.
The issue of government assistance for local authorities to meet the costs of the new duties was raised in a House of Lords debate last week. Baroness Jolly, a government health spokesperson in the Lords, told peers that the government would commit “an additional £69.4 million for 2015-16 through the Better Care Fund, rising to £192.6 million by 2020”.
London councils said the government had to clarify whether any new money would be available to councils.
A London Councils spokesperson said: “We welcome the reforms to carers’ rights, but for carers to benefit fully, central government needs to provide the funding to deliver these changes.
“Yet, it is unclear whether any additional funding will be made available to meet these new responsibilities. At a time when boroughs are facing a 34 per cent cut in central government funding, this is unacceptable and goes against the principles in the Care Act.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Care Act will make the social care system fairer. The Impact Assessment is not yet finalised and we’re working with the care sector to model implementation costs.”