Nine out of ten councils believe that key planks of the Care Act will be jeopardised unless the government gives local authorities ‘adequate’ funding to implement the reforms, a survey by the Local Government Association has found.
In reforms to be introduced in April 2016, the Act will allow self-funding service users to request an assessment to be considered for a ‘cap’ on their care costs. But the LGA poll of 152 local authorities found that councils had “major” concerns over the cost of the policy.
Under the cap policy, self-funders aged over 65 would start receiving free care and support once the sum that their council would have spent on meeting their unmet eligible needs – had it been doing so – reaches £72,000, in 2016 terms. Last week the government announced that councils in England will share £175m to pay for assessments of self-funders in 2015-16 who wish to be considered for the cap ahead of the policy’s introduction.
The LGA has written to care minister Norman Lamb outlining its concerns. The association said that if further analysis by the Department of Health (DH) and local government being carried out in the next few weeks identified a funding gap for implementing the Act, “more money will be the only reasonable solution”.
Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:”Councils want to help as many people who require support and care as possible, however, with only eight months to go until councils will have to start implementing these changes, the clock is ticking for government to get the funding right so that these vital reforms do not face collapse before they have even begun.
“The Care Act has the potential to bring about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people who rely on care and support. Some of the most vulnerable people who rely on care, their families and carers are expecting changes from April next year. Many of these people will have been anticipating the positive impact that some of these changes could have on their lives and now could be facing the very real possibility that the Government could have unfairly raised their expectations through a failure to properly fund the changes they have been waiting for.”
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, said: “We agree with the LGA that there is an urgent need for realistic levels of social care funding for councils. The Care Act risks being fatally compromised even before it is implemented because councils cannot meet current demand let alone any increase. It would be ridiculous if councils failed to invest in prevention services, as the Act requires, because all their money is being spent in a desperate attempt just to meet current need.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Care Act is a huge step forward in how we support older and disabled people in this country. We have given councils an extra £1.1 billion this year to protect social care services and are providing extensive support to implement the reforms, including £470 million next year. We will continue to work with councils and the LGA to ensure the changes are sustainable.”