ADASS warns adult social care is ‘perilously close to becoming unsustainable’

Half of adult services directors predict overspending on social care budgets

Published on 16th October 2017

Over half of local authorities expect to overspend on their adult social care budget by almost £21 million each, a survey has revealed.

The research, published by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, found that 53% of directors forecast overspending on adult social care budgets this financial year. The average estimated overspend is £2 million, with the highest at £20.8 million.

At the same time, all local authorities face having to help pay a potential adult social care bill of nearly £270 million to fund six years of backpay for sleep-in shifts. The survey found that the average cost - for councils, providers and self-funders, per council area – to pay for six years of backpay for sleep-in shifts is £1.78 million. If this figure was applied to the 151 councils in England providing adult social care the total would amount to £269 million.

ADASS President Margaret Willcox, said: “Our latest survey makes this clear and paints a bleak picture. More than half of councils are already forecasting an overspend in adult social care budgets for this financial year and their top two concerns are both funding-related.

“Dedicated care workers deserve recognition and reward, but the Government needs to fully fund historic back-pay for care workers who have done sleep-in shifts or this could severely impact on the care of thousands of older and disabled people. Councils continue to prioritise delayed transfers of care, but the idea of imposing further sanctions on already cash-strapped councils seems frankly bizarre.

“Sustaining the increasingly fragile homecare sector gets more difficult by the day and is another major concern,” she added.

The poll shows that sleep-in pay costs are the second biggest concern – after ring-fenced investment money - for directors of adult social services directors in England as they approach winter pressures facing the sector.

The survey also revealed:

  • 67% of councils reported provider closures in the first five months of the financial year
  • 94% of councils reported they had experienced quality challenges

  • Councils say the hardest care service to obtain a place in is a nursing home (52%), followed by home care (46%) and a residential home (20%)
  • Only 52% of councils believe their agreed delayed transfer of care targets are realistic for both social care and the NHS
  • 16 councils were fined for delayed transfers of care in 2016/17, with individual fines as high as £280,540.

  • Only 18% of councils are confident or very confident that their Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) will deliver its aims.

Ms Willcox said the findings show that adult social care is coming “perilously close to becoming unsustainable”. While the extra £2 billion in funding is welcome, it cannot hide the fact that by the end of this financial year, £6 billion will have been cut from councils’ adult social care budgets since 2010 – while demand for services are growing all that time. 

She urged the government to address this, not only in the Autumn Budget, but also in the promised consultation on the future of adult social care, as it is impossible to continue without sufficient and sustainable resources.

“However, the time is ticking on the tipping point for adult social care. If councils are to be able to provide personalised, reliable care for people when and where they need it, the government needs to bring forward its forthcoming consultation on establishing a long-term solution for adult social care, which supports the needs of young adults as well as older people,” said Ms Willcox.

“ADASS stands ready to work with government to help establish a better social care system for the rising numbers of people who need it now and in the years to come,” she added.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said the findings reinforce sector-wide warnings that social care faces a perfect storm.

“The survey underlines the urgent need to resolve the short and long-term future of care and it is vital that government sets out how it plans to address this in the upcoming Autumn Budget.

“Councils face a £2.3 billion annual social care funding gap by 2020 and having to fund six years of backpay for sleep-in shifts would be a hammer blow for many councils that are already overstretched and struggling to maintain basic care services.

“We are calling on the government to intervene and assure councils that they will be given genuinely new money to cover the cost of extending the National Living Wage to sleep-ins,” she concluded.

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