Report from social services directors warns they don’t have funding to meet statutory duties

Social services directors have expressed concerns amid the coronavirus crisis, as less than one in 20 believe they have enough money to meet their statutory duties this year, according to a survey.

Only 4% of respondents are fully confident their budget will be sufficient in 2020/21, a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) found – down from 35% the previous year.

The charity, which surveyed members about the impact of Covid-19 on adult social care, said this was of “great concern” and could result in directors and councillors making “difficult decisions to balance the books”.

Some 35% of directors indicated they had no confidence that their budgets would be sufficient to meet statutory duties in the current financial year, while just over half (56%) are partially confident.

Out of 151 directors of social services in England, some 146 responded to the Adass survey between May 1 and 22.

Half of respondents (50%) told the membership body they expect to see either a significant or very significant reduction in income from budgeted client contributions due to Covid-19.

This is likely to result in a minimum of £190 million in lost income for councils, according to Adass.

The charity also calculates that the sector is facing £6.6 billion in extra costs, such as for personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing and deep cleans, by the end of September.

Local authorities have been given £3.2 billion and the Government also announced a £600 million infection control fund, but the charity said the actual costs of the pandemic will outstrip this emergency fund.

Launching the report, president James Bullion (pictured) said “urgent action” was needed to “plug the financial black hole” in local authorities’ finances.

“Without such action, local authorities will run out of money, care providers will go to the wall, many of us will not get the care and support we need, and the economy will take a further hit as more of us are forced to give up work to fill the caring gaps,” he said.

“Prioritising social care is the right thing to do morally, ethically, economically and politically. We must act now, for all our sakes.”

The charity is calling for a two-year ring-fenced funding settlement for adult social care to cover the additional costs of Covid-19, such as PPE, staffing costs and sickness cover.

It is also urging a “new employment deal” with care staff, including adult social care minimum wage, a reform of the care provider market and a two-year cross-government consultation programme.

Caroline Abrahams, Emily Holzhausen and Jackie O’Sullivan, co-chairs of the Care and Support Alliance, said: “Underfunding has left councils and providers struggling to provide people with basic care, and this has only got worse during the pandemic.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils are doing all they can to support social care providers in their areas, but the fragility of our care provider market, exacerbated by coronavirus pressures, is a serious concern and this needs to be addressed as part of fundamental future reforms of the system.”

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