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Adult social care funding has been under pressure for a number of years and was identified as the top long-term pressure for councils in a Local Government Finance Survey carried out in January 2020.

There are a number of factors driving these financial pressures, including:

  • increasing demand for care
  • reductions in overall funding for local government
  • increases in care costs
  • the coronavirus outbreak

Commentators are increasingly concerned that, due to reductions in social care services, more people who need care are not having their care needs met. There is also evidence that care providers are facing quality challenges and that financial pressures are impacting on the financial sustainability of care providers. Furthermore, in some areas a lack of suitable care provision is adding to pressures in the health service.

Additional social care funding 2016/17 to 2019/20

In response to the funding pressures on adult social care services, the 2015 and 2017 Conservative Governments made a series of announcements committing additional short-term, ring-fenced funding for adult social care. This comprised:

In response to the funding pressures on adult social care services, the Government made a series of announcements committing additional, ring-fenced funding to adult social care in England between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The funding was delivered through:

  • A Social Care Precept, under which local authorities were able to increase council tax levels by up to 2% (above the referendum threshold) for each year between 2016/17 and 2019/20. In December 2016, the Government announced increased flexibility which enabled local authorities, if they wanted, to bring forward the Social Care Precept, by raising council tax by up to 3% in 2017/18 and 2018/19.
  • An improved Better Care Fund –to include additional social care funds of around £4.4 billion between 2017/18 and 2019/20.
  • An Adult Social Care Support Grant which provided £240 million to local authorities in 2017/18 and £150 million in 2018/19.
  • A Social Care Support Grant of £410 million in 2019/20 to support both adult and children’s social care services.
  • An additional £240 million in both 2018/19 and 2019/20 for social care packages to ease NHS winter pressures.

Additional social care funding 2020/21

At the Spending Round 2019, the Government set out the additional funding that would be provided for adult social care in 2020-21:

  • An additional £1 billion grant for adult and children’s social care (local authorities to determine how to split their allocation between the two).
  • The Government would consult on a 2% Social Care Precept, which it estimated would enable local authorities to access a further £500 million. This was confirmed in the local government finance settlement 2020-21.
  • The rolling-over of existing social care grants of £2.5 billion into the 2020/21 financial year.

The £2.5 billion of existing social care grants to be rolled over into 2020-21 comprised:

  • £1.8 billion from the improved Better Care Fund.
  • £240 million from the Winter Pressures Grant. The funding will no longer be ringfenced for alleviating winter pressures on the NHS but will instead be rolled into the improved Better Care Fund.
  • £410 million from the social care support grant for adult and children’s services. With the additional £1 billion, the grant would now be worth £1.41 billion.

Commentary

Whilst commentators have welcomed the additional adult social care funding, a wide range of organisations are concerned that funding pressures remain. Ahead of the 2020 Spring Budget, for example, the Local Government Association estimated that adult social care services faced a funding gap of £1.34 billion in 2019-20, and that this would increase to £3.9 billion by 2024-25

Furthermore, the additional funding has been piecemeal and short-term. As a result, local authorities face continued uncertainty about the source and level of social care funding post-2021.


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