YORKSHIRE councils are underpinning the billion-pound burden of adult social care by dipping into emergency reserves to the tune of almost £80m this year, an investigation by The Yorkshire Post can reveal.
The “broken” social care system is being propped up by council rainy day funds, slashing budgets for other services, and cash from council tax precepts as local authorities battle to fill funding gaps, which, with reductions in some key funds likely in the coming years, are only set to worsen.
Councils across the region are dedicating increasing chunks of their budgets to adult social care, with one, North Yorkshire, spending over 42 per cent of its total budget, and altogether authorities will spend just short of £1.5bn this year alone on vulnerable older people.
However, individual councils have told the Yorkshire Post they faced funding gaps of up to £15m when trying to balance their books earlier this year.
Bradford’s “significant” funding pressures meant £15.2m needed to be found from elsewhere to balance its adult social care budget, while Hull’s funding gap was £9.5m, Rotherham’s amounted to £9m, Sheffield’s was £7.7m.
York Central Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ageing and Older People, called on the Government to introduce sustained funding for social care.
“Over the last eight years we have seen a 10 per cent cut in social care funding amounting to £6.3bn,” she said. “The system itself is broken. 1.2m people across the country currently cannot access the care they need. Dignity is being taken away from people. This crisis will continue to grow without proper funding in place.”
The majority of local councils with social care responsibilities, of which there are 15 in the region, were able to raise extra funds by implementing the full 3 per cent adult social care precept on council tax bills this year. Nine councils, including Leeds, Kirklees and Bradford, did just that, while all the remaining authorities added a precept of between 1.5 and and 2 per cent - raising a total of £53.4m, a figure dwarfed by the cumulative funding gap.
Fears are already being raised over council’s abilities to meet next year’s social care bill, with authorities’ telling the Yorkshire Post they expect funding gaps to be even larger.
Leeds’ expects to have funding pressures of around £14m in 2019/2010 - up from £5.6m this year.
Coun Rebecca Charlwood, executive member for adults, health and wellbeing, said higher wage costs for care workers, the impact of Brexit on recruitment, and rising expectations of support were all going bite.
She said: “Funds are very tight and this presents a huge challenge for councils as we seek to support the NHS by offering care.”
Kirklees Council’s funding gap looks set to rise from £4m this year to £7.6m next year.
Cabinet member for adults, Coun Cathy Scott said there was “considerable concern” for future years too, due to the “continued uncertainty” of national funding, the ageing population and pressures within the care workforce.
“What is needed is a long term sustainable solution for social care that allows individuals and councils to plan properly for the future,” she said.
Last month Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Commons a long-awaited Green Paper on the future of social care funding, due to be released this month, will now be published in the Autumn.
A department spokesperson said: “We know the social care system is under pressure — that’s why we’ve provided access to £9.4 billion of additional funding over three years.
“We will shortly outline the Government’s plans to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future, including how to fund it.”