The Local Government Association (LGA) has today launched a nationwide consultation into how the government should fund adult social care in the future.
Following the government’s decision to delay the adult social care green paper until autumn, the LGA has released its own green paper as it looks to suggest plans for a secure long-term funding strategy for the sector.
The LGA hopes the document will kick-start “a much-needed debate” around how adult care is structured and delivered, and asks the government to consider a more preventative, community-based personalised care system to help “maximise people’s health and wellbeing”.
In particular, a fragile provider market and growing unmet need were two salient issues highlighted by the document, published to launch an eight-week consultation.
Services at ‘breaking point’
Since 2009-10, local authorities have faced sizeable cuts in funding from central government, forcing many councils to tighten their eligibility criteria and concentrate care on those with the highest needs.
Over the same period, increased demands have been placed on adult social care services, with more people living for longer and requiring council services.
According to figures from the LGA paper, councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care services each year – the equivalent of 5,000 a day. It also estimated councils would face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain current services.
Despite acknowledging government attempts to provide short-term fixes, the LGA said a reluctance to provide a long-term plan had “increased strain on an already-overstretched workforce” and left the sector “at breaking point”.
“One off grants, the council tax precept for social care and increases in improved Better Care Fund funding have been helpful… But each mechanism has its limitations and they have not been sufficient to deal with all short-term pressures, let alone address the issue of longer-term sustainability,” it said.
Drawing on work completed by Age UK, the Health Foundation and King’s Fund and the joint select committee report, the LGA said paying providers a “fair price” for their services would help to create a more stable market.
It explained that higher payments would lead to less handing back of contracts and a lower rate of providers ceasing to trade.
To reduce unmet need, the LGA suggested the government increased funding to cover inflation, stating that extra money would reduce pressure from services and allow people to continue to live independent lives.
The document also considered how these changes would be funded, but acknowledged that “a mix of solutions” would be needed. It suggested increasing income tax for taxpayers of all ages and a social care premium that charges over 40s and working pensioners more national insurance as two measures the government should consider to cover costs.
In the long grass
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Work to find a long-term funding solution for adult social care and support has been kicked into the long grass by successive governments for the past two decades and has brought services to breaking point.”
“We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer. Our green paper is the start of a nationwide public debate about the future of care for all adults, and how best to support their wellbeing.”
“This process must start now,” she added.
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), lent his support to the consultation: “The LGA publication of their version of a ‘green paper’ for social care represents an important contribution to the debate about what we want society to look like from one of the key contributors to delivering that future.”
“ADASS will work with the LGA alongside all stakeholders in this critical debate to ensure the voice of adult social care remains prominent throughout. This document maintains a much-needed profile in the lead up to the Governments formal green paper due now in the autumn.”
The LGA will respond to findings in the autumn with the hope of influencing the government’s green paper and autumn budget. You can respond to the consultation here.