The government has doubled the funding available to councils to deal with the impact of coronavirus, after town hall leaders warned that the pandemic was pushing authorities towards financial failure.
Local government secretary Robert Jenrick said that £3.2bn would be made available to authorities, up from £1.6bn announced last month, saying “local government would have the resources they need to meet this challenge”.
Much of the money will go towards the increasing demands on social care – particularly for adults – as a result of the challenges of speeding up hospital discharge, dealing with the immense pressures care homes are facing as a result of the pandemic and managing workforce shortages.
There are also significant pressures on children’s social care as a result of the need to change working practices, deal with staff shortages and respond to increased risks to children and families as a result of the lockdown, including through domestic abuse.
‘Breathing space’ for councils
The Local Government Association welcomed the announcement, saying it provided “breathing space” for councils.
Before Jenrick made the pledge, the LGA had warned that the pandemic was driving councils towards “financial failure” as they faced rising demand with reduced income from fees for services that have had to close, such as leisure centres.
Alongside previous money and measures, this will this give councils breathing space.
“It is also reassuring that the Secretary of State has reiterated his promise today that councils will get all the resources they will need to cope with this pandemic,” said LGA chair James Jamieson. “This commitment needs to be rock solid and consistent so councils can stay focused on leading the local response to the greatest challenge we have faced as a nation for decades.”
The funding was also welcomed by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, whose president, Julie Ogley, said:
“Adult social care in its broadest sense has been mobilised in an unprecedented way over the course of the last month; supporting and protecting us all. Enhancing care and support to those in care homes and in their own homes. Finding safe places to stay for those who were previously living on the streets. Supporting those of us who are who are experiencing mental health crises as a result of the lockdown. And responding to the upsurge in domestic violence incidents.
“This funding will help ensure that social care as part of the wider local government family continues to be there when we need it most.”
Besides the £3.2bn, the government has also provided authorities with support with their cash flow, by paying up front £850m of social care grant, which would have otherwise been paid monthly over April, May and June, and allowing them to defer £2.6bn in business rates due over the next three months.
Row over social care fees rise
The additional cash follows a row over estimates provided by the LGA and ADASS over the additional costs care providers are enduring as a result of the pandemic.
In guidance to commissioners issued earlier this month, the associations estimated that providers would face a 10% hike in costs in April due to increased staff sickness, the need for personal protective equipment and higher needs among service users.
The LGA and ADASS also said that such additional funding would not be sustainable over a number of months without additional money from government beyond the £1.6bn that had, at the time, been committed.