Is Adult Social Care Funding In Crisis?

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Underfunded and stretched to its limits, the adult social care system is now at a critical point according to the Adult Social Care Funding: 2016 State Of The Nation Report.

Is Adult Social Care Funding In Crisis?

Zena Soormally, Solicitor for Simpson Millar's Court of Protection team looks at why a serious deficit in funding and lack of resources could mean that the most vulnerable individuals miss out on the support that they so desperately need.

A Lack Of Funding Versus A Growing Population

Since 2010, councils have had a 40% reduction in the grants they receive from the government, making it challenging – if not impossible – for them to meet the needs of a growing population.

The problem is that the decrease in funding is at odds with:

  • the growing pressure on services to perform and look after an increasing number of individuals
  • general inflation; and
  • increasing core costs, such as national insurance, the national living wage, and pension contributions

It's even more worrying that by 2019/2020 the Local Government Authority (LGA) has estimated that the local government will face an overall funding gap of £5.8billion.

Under the coalition government, an extra £7.2billion was given to adult social care services in the hopes that this would stop the funding gap from appearing. In theory, this had the potential to make a real difference to the sector, but the report has found that the lack of stability in the funding offered to councils hasn't allowed this to happen.

According to the report, between 2011/2012 and 2015/2016, councils experienced a funding gap of around £5billion.

"Cuts to social care funding over a number of years have now exhausted the capacity for significant further efficiencies in this area" the Health Select Committee commented in the report.

"Based on the evidence we have heard we are concerned that people with genuine social care needs may no longer be receiving the care they need because of a lack of resource. This not only causes considerable distress to the individuals concerned but results in significant additional costs to the NHS."

Different Perspectives On The State Of Adult Social Care Funding

As useful as facts and figures can be, the best way to truly understand what's happening on the front lines is to get the views of those working in and involved in the industry.

Through a variety of short essays written by elected members, carers, social care providers, and healthcare providers, the report looks at state of the system and what improvements need to be made.

Some of the common topics that are covered include:

  • The lack of funding for adult social care services conflicts with the increasing demand for care and rising costs of care
  • The disconnect between people's expectations of the system and the resources that are available
  • Health and social care services aren't integrated as effectively as they could be
  • Long-term solutions that address the needs of each community need to be developed, rather than having a "one size fits all" approach
  • Without reforms, it's unlikely that councils will be able to support those in need – this means that the costs of care will most likely fall on the individuals and their families
  • Understaffing and high turnover rates

Another potentially serious concern that's briefly mentioned in the report is Brexit.

Currently, around 90,000 jobs within the sector are filled by workers from the EU and once the UK leaves the EU it's not clear whether this can be sustained.

The Future Of Adult Social Care Funding

There's no doubt that the system is facing possibly the biggest funding crisis it has ever seen. But this isn't the only obstacle that the sector is facing.

According to the report, social care isn't recognised as a priority by the public, which is why it's so important to now raise awareness about "what social care is, why it matters and why it must be valued."

Richard Humphries, Assistant Director of Policy for The King's Fund adds that "...ad hoc initiatives will not resolve the existential crisis of care and could make it even worse. Addressing the triple challenge of money, service design and workforce needs a clear strategy and a proper plan."

Zena comments:

"For the elderly and vulnerable whose lives can depend on the help they get from social care services, it must be terrifying to hear that there aren't enough resources to even support their basic needs."

"Unfortunately, this is a truth that is all too apparent to me, my colleagues, our clients, their family members, and the numerous advocates and advice agencies that we work with."

"Day in day out, I see the impact that a lack of funding or staffing for the relevant services has on vulnerable individuals, regardless of their age. My colleagues and I have to think creatively and work with those responsible for care to come up with novel and flexible ideas as to how care can be provided."

"The fact is that as the population grows the demand for these services will keep increasing. If central government, local authorities, the NHS, and other service providers and advocates can work together to spread the word about the importance of social care funding and provision of services, and think of proposals to improve the way the current systems work, I am hopeful that our actions will make a real difference to the most vulnerable in society."


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