William Eichler 16 September 2021

County council leaders warn social care reforms ‘fall short’

County council leaders warn social care reforms ‘fall short’ image

Social care reforms will protect more individuals from large care costs but will not improve access to care and could make local care markets ‘unsustainable’, county council leaders say.

A new report by the County Councils Network (CCN) and the Rural Services Network (RSN) provides an overview of the challenges in delivering adult social care in rural and county areas, and analyses the impact of the Government’s social care reforms.

The State of Care in County and Rural Areas welcomed the Government’s announcement of a cap on care and means-test threshold. However, it warned that it will not address the question of eligibility and could destabilise local care markets.

Last year, 58% - 545,000 - of people who made a request to their local county authority were told they were ineligible for care, as councils have tightened their eligibility over the years owing to financial pressures. This figure has remained stagnant since 2017.

The CCN and RSN warn that the Government’s proposed reforms will not improve eligibility for the thousands currently below the criteria to access care services.

The Government’s commitment to allow private fee payers to access council contacts and ensure greater fairness in care fees paid between private and state fees is well intentioned, according to the report.

However, the CCN and RSN warned it will lead to a ‘significant increase’ in demand for council arranged care. It could destabilise county care markets by making some providers economically unviable or result in unaffordable additional costs for councils.

The report also said that the new Social Care and Health Levy could raise £12bn a year, but outside of 20% of this fund set aside for social care reform, there is no commitment on how these resources will be distributed between social care and the NHS.

‘Unlike successive governments, this administration has grasped the nettle and set out the first attempts at reforming the adult social care system in a generation,’ said Cllr Martin Tett, the County Councils Network Adult Social Care spokesperson.

‘However, these reforms, and the sums committed, fall short of truly addressing all the issues within the social care system and could have unintended consequences, including destabilising county care markets. They will not address existing challenges, not least in improving eligibility for the hundreds of thousands unable to access to services.

‘Because no short-term funding is available for current pressures, things are likely to get worse before they get better. Councils are likely to reduce services rather than enhance them – unless the Spending Review provides more resource. We cannot rely on council tax alone to fund rising demographic and inflationary pressures.

‘Councils are extremely concerned that the government has underestimated the financial impact of a commitment to closer equalise fees paid by councils and private payers, whilst as laudable as that aim appears.

‘With the system cross-subsided by private fee payers, any commitment to equalise fees without fully funding this significant change could mean more care providers in county areas become financially unviable.’

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