Almost all councils in England with social care responsibilities have reported they are likely to cut the cash available to the sector, the public spending watchdog has said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) report, published yesterday, found 94% of the 83 single tier and county councils surveyed – which are the local authorities with social care responsibilities – said they expect to reduce service budgets in 2021/2022.
Respondents explained these savings could impact adult social care and special educational needs and disabilities care packages, as well as increase client contributions for adult social care. The savings could also see libraries close, waste collections reduced and homelessness support cut.
Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, told Nursing in Practice the findings left him ‘dismayed’ but ‘not surprised’, and called for more government support for the struggling sector.
He said: ‘Local authorities have no choice. They don’t want to cut services back but are extremely stretched financially. Government support has been inadequate, and more is needed. Social care staff also deserve to earn a decent wage and be respected. Enough is enough. It’s crisis time.’
English councils surveyed by the NAO also reported the share of overall spend on social care has increased from 59.3% in 2010/11 to 69.4% in 2019/20.
The NAO concluded that while government action has helped councils financially survive during Covid-19, many have faced significant funding gaps.
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green told Nursing in Practice that the ‘reported funding gap is worrying and we fear that local authorities will not be able to fully support those in need of care.’
He added: ‘Social care must not be side lined. It needs to be viewed as the vital part of the national infrastructure that it really is.’
The findings come amid concern that Covid-19 relief funds for social care end on the 31 March. Care home bosses and charities have said homes may close after the chancellor failed to include social care in his budget this month.
Professor Green continued: ‘Covid relief funds need to be accounted for and if they have not reached the frontline we want to find out why.’
In October last year, the health and social care committee warned that England’s social care sector needs an extra £7bn more a year by 2024 to avoid a potential collapse of the market.
Meanwhile, Office for National Statistics data, released on 9 March, found weekly deaths involving coronavirus in the over-80s in England and Wales have fallen 79% since a peak five weeks ago.
There were 1,118 Covid-19 deaths in adults aged 80 and over in the week ending 26 February – a fall from 5,326 deaths involving coronavirus in this age group in the week ending 22 January.