The Local Government Association (LGA) has today launched a nationwide consultation to kick-start a debate on funding adult social care and how to save the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse.
Years of significant under-funding of councils, coupled with rising demand and costs for care and support, have combined to push adult social care services to breaking point.
Since 2010, councils have had to bridge a £6bn funding shortfall to keep the adult social care system going. In addition, the LGA estimates that adult social care services face a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care, while latest figures show that councils in England receive 1.8 million new requests for adult social care every year – the equivalent of nearly 5,000 a day.
Decades of failures to find a sustainable solution on how to pay for adult social care for the long-term, and the Government’s recent decision to delay the long-awaited Green Paper until the Autumn, has prompted council leaders to take action.
Short-term cash injections have not prevented care providers reluctantly closing their operations or returning contracts to councils. This is increasing the strain on an already-overstretched workforce and unpaid carers, and leading to more people not having their care needs met.
Increased spend on adult social care – which now accounts for nearly 40% of total council budgets – is threatening the future of other vital council services, such as parks, leisure centres and libraries, which help to keep people well and from needing care and support and hospital treatment.
The LGA eight-week consultation sets out options for how the system could be improved and the radical measures that need to be considered given the scale of this funding crisis. Possible solutions to funding adult social care in the long-term outlined in the consultation include:
- Increasing Income Tax for taxpayers of all ages – a 1p rise on the basic rate could raise £4.4bn in 2024/25.
- Increasing National Insurance – a 1p rise could raise £10.4bn in 2024/25.
- A Social Care Premium – charging over-40s and working pensioners an earmarked contribution (such as an addition to National Insurance or another mechanism). If it were assumed everyone over 40 was able to pay the same amount (not the case under National Insurance), raising £1bn would mean a cost of £33.40 for each person aged 40+ in 2024/25.
- Means-testing universal benefits, such as winter fuel allowance and free TV licences, could raise £1.9bn in 2024/25.
- Allowing councils to increase Council Tax – a 1% rise would generate £285m in 2024/25.
The consultation – the biggest launched by the LGA – is seeking the views of people and organisations on how best to pay for care and support for adults of all ages and their unpaid carers, and aims to make the public a central part of the debate. The LGA will respond to the findings in the Autumn to inform and influence the Government’s Green Paper and spending plans.
The LGA Green Paper seeks to start a much-needed debate about how to shift the overall emphasis of our care and health system so that it focuses far more on preventative, community-based personalised care, which helps maximise people’s health, wellbeing and independence and alleviates pressure on the NHS.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said, 'People have a right to live the life they want to lead and high quality adult social care and support plays an essential role in this. It is also vital to society. It strengthens communities, reduces pressures on the NHS, supports around 1.5m jobs and contributes as much as £46bn to the UK economy.
'But 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 these 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, and we encourage as many people and organisations to have their say on how we pay for it and the responsibilities of citizens, families and communities.'
Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission said, 'I am glad the LGA is continuing the debate for a long-term sustainable solution for adult social care. Of course funding and resources are a critical part of the debate but to ensure we focus on quality too, the needs and aspirations of all those using services, their families and carers, must be at the heart of what that future should be.'
The LGA’s green paper consultation is available here.