Boroughs in the capital have warned of worsening pressures on adult social care resources, with concerns about the potential impact on London’s health and care system this winter and beyond.
The cross-party group London Councils is calling for immediate emergency funding to boost adult social care provision, which it argues is essential for maintaining NHS performance over the winter months.
While the group welcomes the recent announcement of a £500m adult social care discharge fund for local authorities across England, there remains considerable uncertainty over how much of this will come directly to councils.
Around 150,000 Londoners receive adult social care support from their local authority. London boroughs spend over £2.8bn on adult social care annually, accounting for almost a third of their controllable expenditure.
However, London Councils points out that boroughs face overall finance pressures across all their service areas of up to £400m this year, rising to over £700m next year, and with adult social care budgets a top concern. The umbrella body is therefore pushing for further funding support.
Although boroughs work in close partnership with local NHS services to co-ordinate provision and tackle communities’ health and care needs together, London Councils says the many service pressures in the capital will inevitably make for a very challenging winter this year. The ability of adult social care services to respond promptly to residents’ needs – particularly in keeping people out of hospital and freeing up beds – is a key factor determining London’s NHS performance.
London Councils is also seeking a delay to planned reforms of adult social care funding. Although the government intends to introduce a new adult social care charging framework from October 2023 – including changes designed to cap personal costs and increase eligibility for support – boroughs say the adult social care sector needs longer to prepare.
Amid concerns the reforms could divert resources away from frontline social care and heap additional pressures on staff capacity, London Councils is asking the government to push back implementation of the new framework until 2024 once the experience of ‘trailblazer’ local authorities piloting the changes has been assessed. London Councils is also pressing for a government guarantee that no local authority will be left financially worse off as a result of the reforms.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, London Councils’ Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Care, said:
“This is set to be a very challenging winter for health and care services across the capital.
“We’re deeply concerned about the impact of worsening financial pressures on London’s adult social care sector. Adult social care plays a vital role in supporting older and disabled Londoners, but also in ensuring the smooth-running of London’s NHS. This was particularly pronounced at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and boroughs remain committed to working in partnership with the NHS to serve London’s communities as best we can.
“We were pleased to see the government announce the £500m adult social care discharge fund, but we need urgent clarity on what extra resources are coming to councils to bolster services this winter.
“Looking to next year and beyond, the current timetable for reforming adult social care funding looks increasingly unrealistic and risks destabilising services already under immense pressure. We hope ministers will listen to councils’ concerns and work with us to find a better way forward, including the long-term funding solution the sector still desperately needs.”
London Councils set out boroughs’ concerns in its response to a recent government consultation regarding adult social care funding reform. As well as warning of insufficient overall funding, the group pointed to the lack of transparency and engagement with the sector in developing the plans.