Town hall leaders warn of £1bn black hole in adult social care funding even if council tax goes up

This article originally appeared on The Yorkshire Post, written by Rob Parsons.

Under-pressure adult social services will face a £1 billion funding gap next year despite council tax rises, according to the body representing town hall leaders. Extra money raised by local authorities will “do little” to stop a decline in standards and the availability of care in England, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Its warning comes as a report by charity Independent Age suggests the quality of care homes has dropped in one in three local authorities in England, with three areas of Yorkshire among the worst in the country.

Local authorities are able to raise council tax by up to 2.99 per cent in 2019/2020, and by a further two per cent if they provide social care. However, councils cannot exceed an increase of six per cent in the social care levy over the three-year period from 2017/18.

The LGA estimates that if all councils raised council tax to the maximum level they could, adult social care services would still face a funding gap of at least £1 billion next year to maintain current standards. This figure could rise to £3.6 billion by 2025.

Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s resources board, said: “Raising council tax has never been the answer to fixing our chronically underfunded social care system.

“It has raised different amounts of money in different parts of the country, unrelated to need, and risked adding an extra financial burden on households. “Investing in social care is the best way to keep people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community.

“This is not only good for our loved ones but is proven to alleviate pressure on the NHS.

“Plugging the immediate funding gap facing adult social care and finding a genuine long-term funding solution must, therefore, be an urgent priority for the Government.”

Meanwhile, analysis of Care Quality Commission inspection data from January 2019 and January 2018 shows the quality of care homes has worsened in 37 per cent of local authorities.

The drop in performance is steeper than between 2017 and 2018 when it fell by 22 per cent, Independent Age said, but still meant 62 per cent of council areas saw improvements.

In Manchester, 44 per cent of care homes were rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, meaning they are failing to deliver the minimum quality of care expected, in January.

Three Yorkshire council areas, Barnsley, Calderdale and Kirklees were in the bottom ten nationwide, with 33.1 per cent and 35.4 per cent of the areas’ care homes in the bottom two categories.

And across Yorkshire 23.3 per cent of care homes were poorly-rated, the highest proportion of any English region despite a 2.8 per cent improvement since 2018.

Between 2018 and 2019, only three of the 15 local authorities in Yorkshire responsible for social care saw the quality of their homes decline.

George McNamara, director of policy and influencing at Independent Age, said the findings on the quality of care homes were “truly alarming”.

“Years of dithering by the Government and the failure to reform the social care system is a main cause of increased pressures on the care home market and more areas with poor performers,” he said.

“Unless the forthcoming green paper is bold and ambitious, it will do little to address the crisis in care.”

The publication of the government green paper setting out proposals for reforms to social care has been delayed several times, since its original scheduled publication date of 2017.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone has access to the care and support they need and have provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9 billion for next year.”

“We will shortly set out our plans to reform the social care system for adults of all ages to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”

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