The winning political party in next month’s General Election will have to inject nearly £1 billion more into adult social care than is currently spent just to keep up with demand, new data shows.
The 2019 Performance Tracker, produced by the Institute for Government and CIPFA, which analyses data across nine public services, including the NHS, schools and the police, indicates that adult social care is the service most under pressure.
It states that while planned government spending may be enough to meet demand while maintaining standards at 2018/19 levels for most services, current spending plans for local authorities do not look as if they are enough to maintain current standards in adult social care.
“We estimate that any future government would have to spend an additional £0.7bn by 2023/24 just to keep pace with the increase in the number of people who will need publicly funded care,” the report says.
The current government projects that £19.2bn will be spent on adult social care by 2023/24, but a minimum of £19.9bn must be spent in order to meet demand, the tracker warns.
“Our projections are a conservative estimate of the minimum funding required to meet demand. The projections also do not account for any policy changes that could either increase demand or cost pressures above inflation,” the report adds.
Spending on adult social care in England has fallen by 2% in real terms since 2009/10.
Local authorities initially made efficiencies by freezing or cutting fees paid to private and charitable providers – but reversed course after 2015 when this approach proved unsustainable.
The introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016 further limits councils’ ability to cut provider fees without reducing the quality of care they provide, the Institute for Government and CIPFA said.
And despite any efficiencies they might have made, some local authorities have tightened their interpretation of eligibility criteria for care. As a result, adults with care needs have increasingly relied on care provided informally by family and friends.
“Demand for publicly funded adult social care is likely to continue rising faster than money local authorities have to spend on it. Unless local authorities can make further efficiencies, the government will either have to spend more or accept that local authorities will have to reduce the quality of, or access to, care,” the report warns.