Social care funding in a ‘ridiculous situation’, says LGA head

David Sparks calls for an extra £1.1bn of funding for councils to maintain a ‘civilised level of care’

The head of the Local Government Association, David Sparks, has described social care funding in England and Wales as being in a “ridiculous situation” as councils are having to cut key services to fund care for the elderly.

Sparks, who runs the body that represents councils, called for an extra £1.1bn of funding for local authorities to maintain a “civilised level of care”.

He said: “Our councils are telling us that they have had to switch £900m from other services to plug the gap on elderly care. It’s basic arithmetic. If you freeze local council spending and the population is increasing all the time and the demand for services is increasing, it means other people will suffer.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that councils were being forced to cut other services in an attempt to maintain social care budgets, but that the quality of social care services had still deteriorated.

“We need at least £1.1bn to match what we view as the likely demand for next year based on the trends. Every year it’s going up, it’s now 35% of local government expenditure [that] just goes on adult social care,” he said.

“If you go in, like I do, to see my father in a care home, and you listen to the bell ringing, you know that bell rings longer before people are seen because money is being spread out, and there’s an inadequate amount of funding going in for a civilised level of care in the 21st century. It is just a ridiculous situation.”

His comments come as the Commons public accounts committee publishes its report on the financial sustainability of local authorities, which warns that local authority cuts are hitting the poorest areas the hardest.

Margaret Hodge MP, the chair of the committee, said councils were having to cope with funding reductions of 37% between 2010-11 and 2015-16.

“These cuts have not hit all local authorities equally, with reductions ranging between 5% and 40%,” she said.

“Councils with the greatest spending needs – the most deprived authorities – have been receiving the largest reductions. Further cuts could not just undermine the entire viability of most optional services, but might threaten some statutory services in these areas.”

The report concludes that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has taken a largely “hands-off” approach to the cuts and does not have a good enough understanding of the impact of funding reductions, either on local authorities’ finances or on services.

Hodge continued: “[The DCLG] looks only at data on spending and has little information on service levels, service quality, and financial sustainability. Without at least an idea of the amount of funding required to maintain statutory services to a minimum standard, it is hard to see how the department could ensure that local authorities are able to fulfil their statutory duties.”


Frances Perraudin

The GuardianTramp

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