The government has been urged to double its funding allocation for adult social care this year, to prevent the collapse of care services nationwide.
ADASS has warned that the £1.4bn allocated to adult social care from the £3.2bn Emergency Fund provided by government is running out and that directors are “woefully frightened” about the financial impact of COVID-19 on councils and care providers.
Speaking during a webinar ahead of the release of the ADASS Budget Survey yesterday, the charity’s president James Bullion said directors feel that spending “at least needs to be repeated” in this financial year so that councils can cope with loss of income and the inability to deliver on savings plans.
“What we are saying is that we need the government to intervene in this year,” he said.
A recent report by LaingBuisson found that additional COVID-19 costs related to local authority-commissioned care was £3.3bn – the biggest costs being the cost of PPE, increased staff and infection control.
“So if you look at the £1.4bn we have had so far, it is to balance that, to take us up until the end of September,” Cath Roth, Leeds City Council director, said during the webinar.
The ADASS Budget Survey revealed that confidence among council leaders is at an all-time low, with just 4% of directors saying they feel ‘fully confident’ that they will be able to meet the sufficient funds to meet their statutory duties and comply with legislation under the Care Act, while 35% have ‘no confidence’. The lion’s share – 56% – said they were ‘partially confident’.
This compares to 35% of directors who felt ‘fully confident’ in 2019 and 6% who had ‘no confidence’.
Half of directors expect to see either significant or very significant reduction in income from budgeted client contributions for 2020/21 as a result of Covid-19. This is likely to result in a minimum of £190 million in lost income for councils.
Explaining the loss of income, Bullion said: “Many councils will be paying providers as if they were delivering care, but not charging users where they are not receiving care, for example, meaning that despite the resources that we have received from government, we have a significant income shortfall in this current year.”
Prior to the pandemic, directors had planned to make savings to their adult social care budgets of £608m in 2020/21. However, the onset of Covid-19 has diminished the ability of local authorities to deliver their savings programmes, with nearly three-quarters (69%) of directors indicating that over 60% of their planned savings are at risk in this financial year.
“This means that local authorities will be in a position of being overspent, and that needs to be addressed this year, as well as planning for next year,” said Bullion.
On top of the £1.4bn in funding required this year, ADASS has also called for a two-year ring-fenced settlement for adult social care to cover the additional costs of COVID-19 and, for a two year period, to allow reform to be agreed, consulted on and implemented.
ADASS explained that it is not “putting a headline figure” on this funding, but noted that before COVID-19, the House of Lords called for an £8bn cash injection.
“What want to do is call for government to work with us transparently, openly, to not do deals and to work through the right figure for that in-year need and the two-year period, and, eventually, full funding reform,” Bullion said.
“Our perspective on this is that without significant financial intervention from government, then the lives of people using social care and their family carers will be seriously impacted. We mean that in this current year that we are in because of the impact of COVID-19 on council budgets and care services, and we also mean that in terms of the next two years, which is a period of time that we believe it will take government to conceive reform, consult on reform and then implement reform.”
Earlier this week, ADASS warned that COVID-19 has made fragile care markets more susceptible to failure.
Its Coronavirus report revealed that prior to the pandemic, directors reported seeing a downward trend in the number of care providers that have closed, ceased trading or handed back contracts, compared to previous years.
However, since the onset of the crisis, directors are now more concerned about the financial sustainability of care providers.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The social care workforce are at the front line of this unprecedented pandemic and we are committed to supporting them, ensuring that we have the staff we need, and that those in the sector feel both supported and valued for the crucial role they continue to play in our national effort to respond to COVID-19.
“We remain absolutely committed to bringing forward a plan for social care so everybody is treated with dignity and respect, and nobody has to sell their home to pay for care. The Health Secretary has already sought views from across parliament – but this is one of the most complex issues we face, and it is right we take time to develop a fair, sustainable solution.”