A five-year commitment to transform health and social care funding is urgently needed to avoid the care system spiraling towards a deeper crisis, council leaders are warning .
Local Government Association analysis reveals 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.
Local areas have already pooled £5.4 billion in local Better Care Fund plans for 2015/16, 40 per cent more than the £3.8 billion minimum required by the Department of Health. The plans, which will integrate health and social care money, will come into effect in April 2015 and are being agreed by local authorities and health partners.
The LGA is now warning that a larger Better Care Fund is needed for a five-year period and alongside this, a separate transformation fund is needed to ease the initial impact of the changes. This should come with clear targets to deliver change.
A lack of clarity about the future of health and social care funding could risk the early efforts to integrate services and is urging the Government to commit to a joint fund until 2020 that will allow councils and health partners to continue working closely together to provide the best services for residents in the longer-term.
Joint funding for health and social care will provide residents with a better quality of care at home and reduce the need for hospital beds. It will help pay for seven-day a week services to support people being discharged from hospital, preventing unnecessary admissions at weekends and reducing admissions to residential care.
As well as improving lives, savings made will be essential to ensure that councils can continue to afford to provide other vital services to those who need them with pressures caused by our ageing population meaning councils need an extra £400 million each year just to maintain services at current levels.
During the life of this Parliament, councils will have had to find £20 billion worth of savings. As a result, councils have had to reduce adult social care budgets by £2.68billion over the last three years. Although local authorities have managed to limit the impact on the essential care services that people rely on, it is inevitable that services will eventually start to suffer unless there is a long-term commitment to reforming our broken system.
Sir Merrick Cockell, LGA Chairman, said:
"It is indisputable that in order to improve the lives of older and vulnerable people in this country there is a need for significant changes to the way that social care is funded. A five year commitment to join up funding between health and social care would provide the certainty and stability required to transform care services for the people who need and rely on them.
"Evidence has shown that integrating health and social care means people will receive better care at home and a reduced need for hospital beds. The Better Care Fund is a good start, but it would be short-sighted to expect it to solve the problems of the health and social care system overnight. Health and social care partners have shown their confidence in joining up their funding by putting in additional money over and above what was required by the Department of Health, but despite this there has still not been any indication that funding will be extended beyond this first year.
"Both councils and the NHS are committed to providing the best possible care, so it is vital that we are working closely together with greater ambition and a sense of common purpose if we are serious about making every effort to create a care system that will improve people's lives.
"We are all responsible for making sure that we have a care system that is fit for the 21st Century. No one is saying this will be easy. There is less money in the system for everyone, but joining up funding will present opportunities to transform and improve the lives of those using health and care services over the medium and long term at a lower cost."