Scale of adult social care cuts revealed

One in ten councils have cut adult social care spending by more than a quarter, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Its report published today reveals spending by councils on adult social care fell by 11% between 2009-10 and 2015-16.

Polly Simpson, a research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, said: “The spending cuts analysed in our report have been accompanied by a substantial fall in the number of people receiving social care: down 25% across England, between 2009–10 and 2013–14 alone.”

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“Cuts have therefore been delivered, in part, by removing care from many people, with those still receiving care presumably those with the highest needs. What all this means for the quality of care received, the welfare of those no longer receiving care, and other services like the NHS requires further research to answer.”

The figures show six out of seven councils have cut social care spending with one in ten making cutbacks of more than a quarter.

Spending fell by most on average in London (18%) and metropolitan districts (16%) covering urban areas like Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Tyneside.

Cuts were also larger in the north of England than the south. Cuts were also larger, on average, in areas that in 2009–10: spent more on adult social care; had higher assessed spending needs; and were more dependent on central government grants.

Spending on adult social care ranged from £325-445 per adult in different parts of the country.

Unsurprisingly, councils with older populations and higher levels of disability benefit claims spent more. High local earnings levels were also associated with higher spending.

The IFS found no clear link between local authorities spending and fee income.

“It is not the case that all high spenders charge lower fees, nor that all low spenders rely on high income from co-payments to meet costs,” the IFS commented.

David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS and co-author of the report, added: “One thing that stands out in these figures is the big differences in spending per adult on social care among councils assessed to have very similar spending needs by the government.

“Whether this means spending needs assessments are inaccurate, or reflects differences in available funding or the priority placed on social care relative to other services or council tax levels, is unclear.

“But it emphasises that the government has got its work cut out in its ‘Fair Funding Review’ of how to measure different councils’ spending needs from 2019 onwards. That debate could get quite fraught.”

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