On 19 March 2020 the government made available £1.6bn to local government to contribute to additional costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic. It was proposed that this funding should be used, in part, to help support adult social care providers deal with additional costs and ensure continuity of provision.  

There were many calls on this additional funding, including those linked to rough sleepers and shielding vulnerable people. It is also important to put this into the context of cumulative savings of £7 billion from social services budgets between 2010-11 – 2019-20 (£5.5bn of which was found in the last five years and plans) and a further £700m scheduled for the financial year 2020/21. 

A further £1.6bn was granted to councils on 18 April, with allocations confirmed on 28 April, of which £1bn went to councils with adult social services responsibilities. However, this funding will be required to support a range of other essential council services beyond adult social care, such as children’s services, waste and recycling and public health.

Local authorities have a statutory obligation to deliver a balanced budget year on year and if they are unable to do so they must issue a Section 114 notice. The loss of income from fees and charges and other streams as a result of the pandemic, as well as the prospect of reduced income from business rates and the non-payment of council tax will place local authority finances in a perilous position without significant government intervention.

It is clear that the £3.2bn of additional funding to-date will not be sufficient beyond the initial three-month period identified by Ministers, or to cover all of the measures that will be needed over the coming period to ensure continuity of care, address needs and stabilise local providers.  Further funding will be needed. 

Over recent weeks, national groups representing adult social care providers have publicly expressed concerns that the additional funding was not making its way to providers.  As a response to these concerns, ADASS conducted a rapid survey of our members to see how councils are using this additional funding to support local providers to deal with short-term cash flow issues.  This rapid survey of ADASS members ran for just three days (28 April to 1 May 2020), with more than four in five local authorities (89%) across England responding.  It asked councils what support they are providing to their adult social care market to ensure stability and what other steps they have taken to support care providers through the pandemic?

The results of this survey offer the first comprehensive snapshot of the scale and types of support that local authorities are providing to adult social care providers. Significant support is being given within the constraints of council funding.

Ensuring payments in advance

  1. 95% of respondents stated that they are using different types of payments in advance to protect providers locally. Mechanisms include:
  • Immediate payments (within seven days),
  • Guaranteed payments including day service providers who are unable to run services and home care providers who are unable to deliver all care packages
  • Block purchases of beds to support provider cashflow and sustainability.

Covering Provider temporary cost pressures

Based on those local authorities that stated that they had taken action to address temporary cost pressures being experienced by providers: 

  1. 97% have provided financial support to providers to help them deal with immediate, temporary cost pressures. Actions taken include:
  • Establishing emergency funds for providers to claim back excess cost
  • Providing 5%-10% temporary uplifts in fees
  • Providing lump sums upfront to guarantee care provision
  • The remaining 3% are providing support for cost pressures but their approaches require further clarification that could not be sought and secured in the short time period that the survey was open for.

Responding to the survey’s results, James Bullion, ADASS President said:

Local authorities are working with and supporting their local social care providers to help protect and insulate them from immediate cost pressures and ensure stability.  We are working together to ensure that working age disabled people and older people continue to get the care and support they need.  

Ensuring that we have strong, stable and sustainable providers is an essential part of adult social care.  That is why councils have been using a range of local approaches to ensure payments, and help providers meet significant temporary cost pressures. 

The financial pressures on councils and social care providers are very real and underline why the Government must urgently set out its plans to put adult social care on a sustainable footing.