Fears voiced over cost of changes to adult social care

Stock image showing a person visiting a care home resident. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Councils say there are lots of unanswered questions over finance for adult care - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Changes to the adult social care system could lead to a black hole in council funding in future, it is feared.

Essex County Council has said it has concerns that the funding for councils will be insufficient to cover the costs of the changes to the care system that will see a new £86,000 cap after which care and support would be free.

With less than two years until the changes come into force, the Government has said a £5.4bn package will include cash for councils to move towards paying a “fair rate for care”, and to increase the fees they pay care homes. But this may not be enough.

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “We are still awaiting the statutory guidance on the new care charging regime so that we can understand the detail and the implications for the council in terms of income and costs.

“This guidance is expected to be published in the new year. It is not possible at this stage to say what it would mean for council budgets and rates we pay.

“The Government has announced a new Health and Care Levy to fund the care cap changes. We are yet to see what our allocation would be. We have concerns, however, that it may be insufficient to cover the cost of the changes.”

Peter Fairley, Director for Health and Social Care Integration, said private funders can pay up to 30% more than a local authority and the situation in Essex is further complicated given more people there pay for care privately.

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He said: “Our hypothesis is that if the private rate was to come down then then market would really struggle if all the the rates were to go down to the authority rate.

“So we’re assuming that at some point the local authority rates will have to increase to ensure an equilibrium.

“From an individual’s perspective a good part of the reform is that it is a much more generous means test than is currently applied so far. More people will be eligible for council-funded support we believe than is currently the case.

“What that will mean for the council’s income? We get well over £100m a year in fees and charges from people driven to the care. We don’t know."