by Sarah Dennis & Luke Stevenson
Calls for more funding in both children’s and adult’s social care to be allocated in this year’s Autumn Budget appeared to fall on deaf ears yesterday, with Chancellor Philip Hammond making no reference to pressures in the system.
The reactions and calls to action from children’s and adult’s social care leaders and experts express acute disappointment. Experts have warned there will be further crisis and even “collapse” in the sector if funding gaps are not plugged and the social care workforce sees no investment in its recruitment, retention and development.
In the March budget, Hammond did commit £2 billion to social care, the first billion of which was handed to councils in April to “act now” and try to alleviate the pressures. The next two years will see £500 million extra added to social care funding, but the consensus from the sector is that this is a sticking plaster, and all eyes are on the social care green paper to see if it leads to the reform the system needs.
Here we round up the core messages from the sector in response to yesterday’s announcement.
Children’s social care:
Alison Michalska, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services:
Michalska said the ADCS was “extremely disappointed” there was no funding for children’s social care in the budget, and warned each budget round for councils “gets harder”.
“We are forced to further reduce services in the very areas we know make an enormous difference to children and their families and can prevent them from reaching crisis point. This, alongside cuts to other public services, has impacted profoundly on our work and our communities,” Michalska said.
Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board:
Watts warned the sector was “rapidly becoming unsustainable”.
“Last year, 90 children entered care every single day. It was the biggest annual increase witnessed since 2013. This has to be a wake up call to government that unless there is an injection of funding to support crucial early intervention services, many more vulnerable children and families will need formal support from council child protection services in the years to come,” Watts said.
He added that three-quarters of councils overspent on children’s services budgets last year, and local government had now reached a “tipping point”, which needed to be addressed in the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau:
The government has ignored the warnings of the sector by failing to take action in the budget, Feuchtwang said.
“Four in ten of the local councillors responsible for providing children’s social care say that a lack of resources is preventing them from fulfilling their statutory duties to children, including those at considerable risk of harm and abuse. We should be stepping in early to help these children and families, but this budget will force councils to provide social care on an emergency basis only.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the children’s society:
Reed warned about the consequences of the funding gap in children’s services, estimated to be £2 billion by 2020, and the ongoing impact of the £2.4 billion fall in central government funding since 2010.
On mental health, Reed said: “The £2.8bn pledged for the NHS today still falls far short of what’s needed to demonstrate that the government is truly committed to giving mental health an equal footing with physical illness. 30,000 children and young people are turned away every year from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and today’s NHS funding announcement didn’t set out the long-term, ring-fenced funding those services desperately need.
Adult social care:
Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS):
Willcox said the lack of extra funding means older and disabled people will not get the support they “desperately” need, and place greater pressure on family members and other carers.
“By the end of this financial year, £6 billion will have been cut from councils’ adult social care budgets since 2010 – with need for our services growing all that time.
“Good social care cannot be achieved without a stable, supported and skilled workforce. While we welcome the rise in the National Living Wage, this needs to be addressed in the funding solution alongside the recruitment, training and retention of staff.”
Lord Porter, chairman, Local Government Association:
Lord Porter said funding pressures on statutory services are having a knock-on effect on other community services: “It is hugely disappointing that the Budget offered nothing to ease the financial crisis facing local services. Funding gaps and rising demand for our adult social care and children’s services are threatening the vital services which care for our elderly and disabled, protect children and support families.
“Only with fairer funding and greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area can local government generate economic growth, build homes, strengthen communities, and protect vulnerable people in all parts of the country.”
Caroline Abrahams (charity director, Age UK) and Mark Lever (chief executive, National Autistic Society) – co-chairs of the Care and Support Alliance:
The “immediate crisis” in social care cannot wait for future reforms, Abrahams and Lever said.
“A £2.5 billion funding gap is estimated by 2019/20. More than a million older and disabled people are without the care they need to do basics like get out of bed, eat, or go to the toilet – let alone leave the house or take part in a social life.
“Without proper funding more people will be denied the care they need, more carers will be pushed to breaking point, more providers will go out of business and the NHS will have to spend millions more picking up the pieces of inadequate social care. Also without extra funding the threat of complete market collapse remains.”