Every year ADASS produces a Budget Survey. This is the seventeenth time we have done so. Over recent years, the ADASS budget survey has become an important barometer of the state and ‘health and wellbeing’ of adult social care in England. The unique ADASS membership enables us, on an annual basis, to reach into local authorities and to take a snapshot of the financial temperature.
I would like to thank the 146 Directors of Adults Social Services who completed it, the ADASS staff team who managed the process and the analysis and Jane Harris, from Cordis Bright, who drew up this report as part of their partnership agreement with ADASS.
This year has been unique with COVID-19 affecting the landscape so significantly. The timing has enabled us to also gather data relating to the impact of and the response to the pandemic. As a result, there are two reports this year. The ADASS Coronavirus Survey was published on the 11th June 2020. This report is a companion to that. It sets out the position of social care budgets prior to the pandemic and the impact that the Covid-19 response has had on budgets.
Every year when setting their budgets, councils have to make difficult decisions about how to meet the needs of people who approach them for care and support. They must protect those who are arranging their own care and to safeguard their interests. Councils have to balance these demands with the need to pay providers the right price for high quality care. These decisions are considered alongside the legal obligation to set a balanced budget year on year, together with the statutory requirements set out in relevant legislation such as the Care Act. These decisions have a direct impact on the extent to which people, their families and carers, have control and choice over the lives they want to lead.
As previous ADASS Budget Surveys have clearly set out, the past has been characterised by short-term and time-limited budget settlements from Government for adult social care, some of which were for very specific purposes. Coupled with this, the absence of reform proposals and a long-term funding settlement for adult social care has meant that the vision set out in the Care Act, which many consider to be sound legislation, has not been realised.
This ongoing ambiguity, despite numerous Government White Papers, Green Papers & consultations over many years, means that we are no clearer about the size, shape and ambition for adult social care over the course of the current decade. In fact, the absence of a full Spending Review means that local authorities and providers have no clarity over budgets for 2021/22.
The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has only served to heighten the uncertainty that exists amongst those who access care and support services, work in social care and for local authorities and providers. As with all parts of daily life, the plans we all had for the year ahead have gone out of the window and we are yet to fully realise what the new normal will be.
This survey clearly highlights that the issues that have been raised in previous ADASS Budget Surveys such as the fragility of care markets; the ability of the sector to pay social care staff a wage that matches the compassion and skill that social care staff show on a daily basis and increasing levels of unmet need have only been magnified by the pandemic. For Directors of Adult Social Services, we already know that a loss of income and the inability to deliver on savings plans will mean that we have a deficit in our budgets of £800m in 2020/21. This situation will of course evolve over the coming days, weeks and months.
The current and ongoing impact of the pandemic on people is immeasurable. This survey highlights the significant concerns that Directors have in meeting their statutory duties. This terminology undersells the human impact that significant shortfalls in adult social care budgets could have on people’s basic rights such as safeguarding people from harm, assessing the needs of disabled and older people and their access to care and support services.
We are calling on Government to ensure that over the next 2 years adult social care has the funding, not only to reimburse local authorities for the costs of Covid-19, but also to enable the sector as a whole to enhance services in the build-up to reform proposals being implemented. This must go alongside a new employment deal with our care staff, who’s compassion, and skill has been brought to the fore during the pandemic. We must also reform care markets so that they better suit the aspirations and needs of those of us who may need them in the future.
This survey is about more than money, it’s about enabling people to live the lives they want to lead, now and in the future.