Nine out of 10 councils are warning that a lack of adequate Government funding could jeopardise vital reforms of the adult social care system due to commence in less than eight months' time.
This provides a stark warning over councils' ability to implement the Care Act reforms, which are designed to put people and their carers in better control of their own care and limit the amount that people will pay towards the support that they need. The figures, taken from a survey of 152 councils with responsibility for adult social care, show that 134 local authorities are concerned about the cost of making crucial changes to services for people in need.
Concerns around the funding for the radical reforms mean that the hope of better and more readily available services that could make this happen could be out-of-reach for the thousands of people who rely on care, their families and their carers.
The LGA has written to Health Minister Norman Lamb on behalf of councils across England and Wales to outline the growing concerns and urge the Government to commit to plugging any funding shortfall.
A major concern for councils is uncertainty over the number of people in local areas who are paying for their own care who could now request an assessment under the new system to limit the care costs they have to meet. Without proper funding councils may not be able to meet this additional demand for assessments placing a further strain on local budgets.
Local authorities are warning the Government that if further analysis being carried out between local government and the Department of Health in the coming weeks does uncover a funding gap, more money will be the only reasonable solution to carrying out these reforms – not delaying or making fewer changes.
Recent LGA analysis revealed that councils will have to spend as much as 40 per cent of overall budgets on services that care for older and vulnerable people by 2020, rising 13 per cent faster than any other service provided to local residents.
Cllr Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said:
"Councils want to help as many people who require support and care as possible, however, with only eight months to go until councils will have to start implementing these changes, the clock is ticking for Government to get the funding right so that these vital reforms do not face collapse before they have even begun.
"The Care Act has the potential to bring about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people who rely on care and support. Some of the most vulnerable people who rely on care, their families and carers are expecting changes from April next year. Many of these people will have been anticipating the positive impact that some of these changes could have on their lives and now could be facing the very real possibility that the Government could have unfairly raised their expectations through a failure to properly fund the changes they have been waiting for.
"We have recognised the importance of these reforms since before the Care Bill was first introduced. It would be an absolute tragedy if insufficient funding jeopardised these desperately needed changes. In recent years, local government has worked tirelessly to save billions while protecting services for those who need them most, but we already know that the next two years will be make or break for adult social care.
"This additional pressure for adult social care is coming to councils at a time when local authority budgets are already under extreme pressure.
"So far, local authorities have managed to limit the impact on the essential care services that people rely on, but it is inevitable that services will eventually start to suffer in the face of such relentless cuts."