England’s county councils say long-awaited social care reforms must be delayed as the sector faces a “perfect storm” of financial and staffing pressures.
From October 2023, reforms to protect against unsustainable care costs and make more people eligible for state support come into force.
They include a more generous means test and a care costs cap of £86,000, two policies supported by the County Council Network (CCN).
But the network, which represents 23 county councils and 13 unitary authorities covering around 25 million people, warns that the significant pressure already placed on the system means the Government would have to delay the introduction of the reforms until October 2024 or deal with worsening availability and quality of care. .
CCN adult social care spokesman Martin Tett said the system was “facing a perfect storm of financial and employment pressures”.
“These reforms could make it worse by expanding the eligibility of state support for care costs provided by local authorities,” the councilor added.
“Councils are facing a mountain of additional assessments that will be impossible to deliver due to current local government capacity and financial issues.
“Loading these reforms on a system that is already in crisis could make care services worse when these reforms are introduced to ‘fix’ social care.
“People newly eligible next October could face long waits for a care assessment, while the quality of care for those already provided could worsen as councils struggle with additional demand amid rising costs.
“Councils remain committed to supporting these reforms, but it is essential that councils have time to mitigate the pressures they will create, hire sufficient staff and stabilize services in the short term. If not, these reforms could be unworkable at first.”
It comes after councils last month called on Prime Minister Liz Truss to deliver on her promise to spend billions on social care, and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said the increase in National Insurance used to pay for the reforms will be reversed from November.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said on September 23 that £6 billion is needed immediately to increase pay for health workers, deal with demographic and inflationary pressures and stabilize the provider market, and the rest “urgent” is needed.
Ms Truss has said her “first priority” in social care is to fund it properly over the winter because there are “too many” people staying in hospital because of a lack of places.
Meanwhile, Labor has pledged to hire health workers by guaranteeing fair pay, workers’ rights and proper training under a National Help Desk, as it claimed that “too many private equity firms are failing” in their obligations to residents.