Never forget, it is a local authority responsibility. This brings a host of additional complications.by Polly Simpson / May 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Spending on adult social care in England fell 8 per cent between 2009–10 and 2016–17. Voices from across the political spectrum have argued that services are underfunded and under pressure—especially as the population is ageing.
The current government has responded with planned increases in funding for social care which could enable councils to undo these cuts by 2019–20 if they choose to. But several parties may, in their manifestos, promise further money for social care in England. (Indeed, a leaked version of Labour’s manifesto, which came to light yesterday, promises just that.) After determining where this money will come from and how much it amounts to, ask how it will be targeted at social care and how it will be distributed across the country.
The second complication is that central government can give additional funding to councils, but it cannot determine what is ultimately spent on social care. That is for individual councils to decide. Enforcing spending levels from the centre would take away much of the flexibility councils currently enjoy over the allocation of their budgets.
Funding ring-fences are an attempt to influence councils’ spending, but they are difficult to enforce if they don’t fully fund a service. In such circumstances, local authorities are required to say that they have used all the additional resources that have been promised to boost social care spending above what they would have otherwise spent. However, it is difficult to verify if this is really happening, or whether some of the funding is being channelled to other services, because we can never know what would have happened in the absence of the additional funding. We have to take councils’ word for it. The only way to be sure that councils spend what decision makers in Westminster want is to fully fund the service with a ring-fenced grant like we do for education with the dedicated schools grant.
Underlying all this is the tension between a desire for local discretion and accountability, on the one hand, and an expectation of national service standards on the other.
Managing and funding services at a local level can have benefits. Councils may be better able to tailor services to local needs and preferences and coordinate the work of different agencies operating in their areas. It can also provide an incentive to tackle underlying drivers…