1 in 10 councils have cut social care by more than a quarter
ONE IN 10 councils cut social care spending per adult by more than a quarter between 2009-10 and 2015-16, according to new research.
Spending per person across England dropped by 11 per cent in real terms over the same period, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said.
On average, the biggest falls in spending were in London (18 per cent) and metropolitan districts (16 per cent) covering urban areas like Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Tyneside. Generally, cuts were larger in the North of England than the South. They were also larger, in general in areas that in 2009-10 had spent more on adult social care; had higher assessed spending needs; and were more dependent on central government grants.
Cuts have been delivered, in part, by removing care from people, with the number receiving support dropping by 25 per cent between 2009-10 and 2013-14.
The report found "significant variations" in spending across the country. Spending was less than about £325 per adult in a tenth of council areas, while it was more than around £445 per person in another tenth - a difference of more than a third.
The IFS said that the differences could partly reflect inaccuracies in the Government's needs assessment and the fact that by 2015-16, the assessment was two years out of date.
But it also reflects that, given similar needs, different councils are making different trade-offs between spending on social care and spending on other services. Local authorities also have different overall budgets, from council tax, business rates and grants, to fund spending.
However, the IFS noted there is "no clear relationship" between local authorities' spending and their fee income.
"One thing that stands out in these figures are the big differences in spending per adult on social care among the councils assessed to have very similar spending needs by the Government," said Polly Simpson, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the report.
"Whether this means spending needs assessments are inaccurate, or reflects differences in available funding or the priority placed on social care relative to other services or council tax levels, is unclear. But it emphasises that the Government has got its work cut out in its Fair Funding Review of how to measure different councils' spending needs from 2019 onwards. That debate could get quite fraught."
Margaret Willcox, president-elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said: "This report reflects the severity of Government funding cuts, which have put adult social care at a point of crisis.
"Councils have protected spending on adult social care as much as possible but significant pressures caused by people living longer and with increased complex needs, and the welcome National Living Wage means the ability to identify further savings have all but run out."
Cllr Linda Thomas, vice-chair of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, said the report reflects the "historic and chronic underfunding of adult social care by successive governments" and called for the "outdated formula" for measuring needs to be scrapped.
"Councils are doing all they can to protect adult social care budgets and the £2bn for adult social care in the Spring Budget is a significant step towards protecting the services caring for the most vulnerable in our communities over the next few years. However, short-term pressures remain and we still desperately need a long-term solution to tackling the funding crisis to help provide care and support for people to enable them to live more independent, fulfilled lives," she added.
"It is impossible to plan for the long-term without long-term funding. No matter what additional help is given to adult social care, if local government funding overall remains under pressure, adult social care faces further savings as it is the biggest budget within councils."