The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has raised concerns about the funding of local authority care services in a new report due out today.
The report, which reviews how the Care Act has been implemented so far, warns that “carers and the people they care for may not get the services they need because of continuing reductions to local authority budgets and demand for care being so uncertain.”
In particular, the committee cautions that government “has not been sufficiently open and transparent” about how it classifies duties in the New Burdens Doctrine, under which government makes sure that local authorities can meet any increased spending requirements without being pressured into hiking council tax, and has therefore created “considerable uncertainty” for councils.
“The Care Act should mean carers get proper support from local councils, but with budgets squeezed this support will be hard for councils to deliver,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC. “Local government is taking on more and more responsibilities from central government, but the money does not always follow. The concept of new burdens is simple enough yet the government’s definition of these burdens fails to reflect reality.
“If new costs to councils are not adequately funded then services will suffer. There is also a real danger of cost-shunting – in this instance, costs of providing care falling on other public services, carers or the people being cared for.”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “We are committed to updating the new burdens guidance by next spring, and will be working with government departments to make sure they are aware of new requirements.
“We are already looking at the possibility of publishing more information on new burdens assessments we undertake, and will be considering with local government, and other departments, what information could usefully be published.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The Spending Review gave local authorities access to up to £3.5 billion extra a year by the end of this Parliament, helping to put adult social care on a sustainable footing. Along with this money we will continue to work with the care sector to support it to deliver on this settlement and provide quality care for older and vulnerable people.”
The Care Act, which outlines various duties and responsibilities for local authorities providing care, is being implemented in two parts. The first phase has already been brought into force, while the second phase, which includes details about how local councils should charge for care, will be enacted in April 2020.
According to figures from the PAC, central government has reduced funding for local authorities by roughly 37 per cent in real terms. However, the new responsibilities under the Care Act will set local authorities back an estimated £470m in 2015-16.