Measures to address the long-term reform of adult social care need to be brought forward to tackle the significant financial, workforce and quality pressures facing the sector, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) is urging.
With more than half (53%) of councils expecting to overspend their adult social care budgets this year by up to nearly £21m each, quality challenges increasing as a result of council savings, and vacancy rates for homecare staff rising, there is a fear that the sustainability of adult social care could breach its tipping point.
Despite a £2bn injection for social care over three years, which is going to reduce delayed transfers of care from hospitals, and the publication of a Green Paper next summer, ADASS remains concerned that this does not address a continuing funding gap, increased support for people living longer with more complex needs and the costs of the welcome National Living Wage.
The challenges – which threaten the ability of councils to fulfil their statutory duty under the Care Act – are impacting now on older and disabled people and their families, as well as care markets, care workers and the NHS.
ADASS is particularly concerned that financial pressures for the increasing care needs of working age adults – those with learning or physical disabilities or mental health conditions – now exceed those of older people.
With ring-fenced investment money topping a list of concerns of Directors, ADASS has made its submission to the Autumn Budget, in which it is calling on Government to:
- Build on the additional £2bn for the period to 2019/20 by taking further steps to secure extra recurring funding to address continuing service pressures and secure the stability of the care market.
- Bring forward at the earliest opportunity clear and wide-ranging options for consultation about putting the social care system on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing beyond 2020. This should aim to secure the right balance between the protection of private assets from catastrophic care costs and adequate public funding for those who have never been able to acquire such assets.
- Help to address the urgent workforce pressures in the sector by: affording care staff, social workers and social care nurses the same recognition as other professionals, like doctors, nurses and teachers; enhancing the status of care workers and addressing pay issues and training; and developing a national recruitment campaign and addressing the uncertainty for non-UK EU citizens who are a crucial part of our workforce.
- Recognising the importance of adult social care in achieving long-term transformation of the wider health and care systems in order to promote independence and reduce the need for long-term care; and ensuring the full engagement of councils in sustainability and transformation partnerships and in the emergence of accountable care systems.
Margaret Willcox, President of ADASS, said, 'There is a growing depth of shared concerns about the quality, safety and sufficiency of adult social care services from across the sector. This is impacting on thousands of older and disabled people and their families now.
'The extra £1bn for adult social care this year barely covers the £824m in savings that Directors will have made this year and cannot hide the fact that by the end of this financial year, £6bn has been cut from councils’ adult social care budgets since 2010 – with need for our services growing all that time.
'With a continuing funding gap this year and beyond, increased overspending in council budgets, care providers closing or returning contracts, rising need, extra costs due to the National Living Wage and continuing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, the social care system remains in a perilously fragile state.
'Not only is there evidence that the future care needs of older people will be greater than previous estimates, with far more care home places required over the coming years, but greater cost pressures are now coming from the needs of working age adults.
'Dedicated and hard-working care workers are providing good, personal care despite increasing pressures, but only 4% of Directors are fully confident in their ability to fulfil their statutory duties under the Care Act this year.
'Adult social care needs to be a national priority and future-proofed for current and future generations who will be needing care in increasing numbers and for a longer time during their lives.
'Whilst we are pleased that Government has committed to publishing the long-awaited Green Paper on social care next summer, more needs to be done now to secure extra recurring money to address funding gaps, address continuing service pressures and the stability of the care market.
'Proposals for the long-term reform of adult social care should be brought forward and need to address the needs of the whole population – not just older people.
'It is also vital that future funding settlement for the NHS and adult social care take account of the inter-dependency of these services and encourage collaboration rather than cost shunting.
'The need for a cross-party consensus on establishing a fair and transparent solution to adult social care is growing – and ADASS looks forward to contributing to debates on this.'