Councils not confident they can meet minimum social care support, Adass survey finds

Most English councils are not confident they can offer the minimum social care support in their communities required by law, according to new research.

More than three-quarters (76%) of directors in the sector said they were concerned that they will not be able to fully meet their duties around the availability of the right care in the right place at the right time in the next financial year, according to the report.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) renewed its call to urge for the “political will to make social care a priority over the next 10 years so everyone can get the care they need” as it published its annual spring survey.

The survey of 153 directors of adult social care across all the English regions had a 94% response rate and Adass said it provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive picture of social care across the country.

It found that almost two-thirds (63%) of English councils overspent on their adult social care budgets in the latest financial year, with almost three-quarters (72%) of those using one-off reserves to fund the gap.

Social care directors across English councils are least confident that their budgets will be sufficient to meet their statutory duties on market sustainability, the report found, with just under two-thirds indicating that this is the case for 2023/24.

Lack of confidence increased significantly for all the specific responsibilities for the 2024/25 year, with 76% of directors reporting that ensuring market sustainability – in other words having continuity of care and sufficient, suitable services to support people and provide essential care – was the area of most concern.

Some 58% of directors identified prevention and wellbeing as a statutory duty they are less than confident their budgets will meet.

Carers UK said the lack of confidence in the offer of minimum legal social care support in communities “should be major cause for concern”.

A positive aspect of the results was that short-term funding boosts from Government had helped reduce the number of people waiting for care and increased support for people at home.

But Adass said the increases in care delivered are not keeping pace with increased needs, pointing to what it termed carer “burnout” with unpaid carers being “left to pick up the pieces of shortages in health and social care support to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing”.

The majority (91%) of adult social care directors said they agreed that unpaid carers had been coming forward with an increased level of need in their local area over the previous 12 months.

The report added: “Directors (are) ranking burnout as the number one reason that has contributed to an increase in carer breakdown over the past year.”

Adass has called on the Government to commit to investing in support to help people avoid the need to go to hospital or a care home, and recovery support after hospital; more support to carers and improved workforce pay; and a fully funded, long-term plan to transform social care to ensure everyone in England can get the care and support they need when they need it.

Adass president Beverley Tarka (pictured) said: “Our findings show that a short-term funding boost from the Government and the hard work social care teams have done to rebuild services after the pandemic is making a difference to thousands of people needing support and care, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

“Leaders tell us they are paddling hard to keep up against a tide of increasing and complex needs.”

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said the findings back up calls for more support for unpaid carers as well as the need for longer-term investment.

She added: “Already a bleak outlook, things will only get worse without a fully funded, long-term plan to transform social care in England – a plan that ensures unpaid carers can get practical support.”

NHS Providers said the report “highlights yet again the urgent need to properly fund and reform the adult social care system”.

David Baines, from the Local Government Association, said: “It is deeply concerning to see that most councils are not confident they can meet all of their statutory duties required by law. This, partnered with the increase in the number of unpaid carers reporting burnout, could have serious impacts for many people who draw on care and support.

“This report shows the impact of a chronically underfunded system and the pressures councils continue to face. We support the recommendations of this report and urge the Government to implement a fully costed, long-term, sustainable plan to fund social care.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have reduced waiting times, as the survey shows, and this comes despite challenges posed by the pandemic and rising inflation.

“We’re going further by providing up to £7.5 billion for social care over the next two years to put the system on a stronger financial footing and help local authorities address waiting lists, low fee rates and workforce pressures.

“We are fully committed to our 10-year vision to reform adult social care, and recently published our Next Steps to put People at the Heart of Care plan – setting out how we are spending up to £700 million on adult social care reform over the next two years.”

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