Rising costs, ageing population, staff recruitment difficulties and years of cuts have left service in crisis, LGA report claims

Councils will have to continue reducing at-home support for older people, according to the Local Government Association.

 

Social care services that support elderly and disabled people are facing “an existential crisis” despite being as important to national well being as the NHS, council leaders will claim on Wednesday.

Councils will have to continue reducing at-home support for older people and paying for beds in care homes because of Whitehall budget cuts, according to the Local Government Association.

Rising costs, the ageing population, difficulties recruiting staff and years of central government reducing its grant have left the service in crisis, the cross-party body claims in a new report.

Councils have had to provide less care at a time of growing need, leaving more vulnerable people isolated and at risk, it says.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, must recognise the “perilous” state social care is now in and ease the pressures on it when he delivers his autumn statement on 23 November, says the LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales.

“The situation is now critical and it is no exaggeration to say that our care and support system is in crisis,” said Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board and the Conservative leader of Warwickshire county council.

“For too long the service has too often been seen by decision-makers as an adjunct to the NHS, rather than a service of equal importance,” she added. Theresa May needed to deliver on her promise of building “a country that works for everyone” as prime minister to avoid the sector suffering even more damage, she said.

The LGA’s intervention comes after a host of NHS leaders, including the NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, made clear that if Hammond does produce more money in the autumn statement for the health service, it should go instead to prop up social care.

Richard Humphries, a social care expert at the King’s Fund, said: “It defies all sense and reason that social care spending will slip back to less than 1% of GDP by the end of the parliament when the number of older and disabled people is increasing and demand for services is rising. This is an unsustainable situation.”

The Care Quality Commission said last month that social care was approaching “a tipping point” meaning even fewer people would get care they need and the NHS would become even busier, unless ministers came up with some solutions.

“Bed blocking” stands at record levels and is costing hospitals £800m a year because mainly elderly patients who are fit to leave cannot be safely discharged because social care support is lacking.

A Department of Health spokeswoman defended the government’s record on social care, saying: “This government is committed to ensuring older people throughout the country get affordable and dignified care. That is why we are significantly increasing the amount of money local authorities have access to for social care, by up to £3.5bn by 2020.”  [But only if the Local Authorities raise an additional precept of up to 2% through Council Tax - which many are reluctant to do].