The government has increased funding for adult social care to help tackle NHS pressures this winter by £10m.
Councils will be able to bid from a pot of £40m – up from £30m – for cash to help prevent hospital admissions and speed up discharges from wards. The funding will be allocated to areas deemed to have the greatest urgent and emergency care challenges this winter.
The Department of Health and Social Care suggested that councils use the funding to purchase more home care packages, to enable people to leave hospital more quickly, and specialist dementia support to prevent admissions, among other things.
“It will improve social care capacity, boost discharge rates and avoid unnecessary admissions, freeing up hospital beds and reducing waits for care,” said care minister Helen Whately.
The DHSC announced the funding, along with £200m for the NHS, following a winter planning summit this week between prime minister Rishi Sunak, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay and leaders from both sectors.
Adult social care funding: a complex picture
The £40m is part of a complex funding picture for adult social care in 2023-24, which includes:
- Core funding for local authorities from council tax, business rates and the government’s settlement grant. Authorities were able to raise council tax by 3% this year without the need for a local referendum, up from 2% in 2022-23.
- Up to £550m from increasing the adult social care precept – the part of council tax that must be spent on adults’ services – by a maximum of 2% (up from a 1% limit in 2022-23).
- The £2.14bn improved better care fund (iBCF), the same as in 2022-23. This can be spent on meeting adult social care needs, supporting the provider market, speeding up hospital discharge and otherwise reducing NHS pressures.
- Councils’ share of the £4.8bn in NHS funding, up by 5.7% on 2022-23, channelled through the better care fund (BCF), whose purposes are to help people live independently at home for longer and ensure they receive the right care in the right place.
- £600m in funding designed to increase adult social care capacity in order to speed up hospital discharge, half of which is channelled through councils and half through NHS integrated care boards (ICBs), and all of which is pooled within the BCF.
- £3.85bn from the social care grant, which is ring-fenced for adult and children’s social care. This is an increase of £1.345bn on 2022-23. Most of the grant is spent on adults’ services.
- £400m through the new market sustainability and improvement fund (MSIF), which councils must use on cutting waiting lists for care or assessments, increasing fees for providers or bolstering workforce capacity in the local area.
- £162m within the MSIF to help councils move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, a similar level to last year.
- £365m in a separate market sustainability and improvement fund – workforce fund, which has the same grant conditions as the wider MSIF but is particularly designed to bolster the workforce.
Extra funding ‘welcome but not enough’
Council leaders welcomed the funding but said it did not go far enough.
“There is no doubt that this winter will be extremely challenging for those needing or working in social care with increased needs and an increasingly unhealthy population,” said Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Beverley Tarka. “Every bit of extra funding helps.”
“But to solve pressures in the long term we need to provide more care at home to prevent more people getting ill and needing hospital in the first place as well as decent pay for the care workforce and support for unpaid carers. That will take a long-term plan, with long term increases in funding to provide the care and support older and disabled people need and to support us all to live and work and care.”
Her comments were echoed by NHS Providers’ director of policy and strategy, Miriam Deakin, who said: “The £40m for local authorities to boost social care capacity, reduce admissions and to tackle delayed discharges will similarly be welcomed but the government must also take a long, hard look at the fundamental long-term challenges facing social care rather than trying to get by through short-term quick fixes.”