3 February, 2015 | By Kaye Wiggins 

The government has “singularly failed” to fund the £98m burden of a change in safeguarding rules and this has “shaken” confidence that it will fund the costs of the Care Act properly, care leaders have warned.

David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, told LGC he was “increasingly alarmed” that the Department of Health had provided no funds to compensate local authorities for the extra costs of an estimated tenfold rise in Deprivation of Liberty Safeguard (DoLS) cases since March.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it had given councils £35m to “protect and empower vulnerable people”.

However, Mr Pearson said the department’s use of this figure was “misleading” because the £35m fund had been provided for several years for a different purpose, and was entirely separate from the new burden caused by the rise in DoLS cases.

“It’s just not accurate to simply leave the implication that somehow they have done anything to fund this at all,” he said. “It’s not correct, because they haven’t.”

The surge in DoLS cases was caused by a Supreme Court ruling in March, which widened the definition of a “deprivation of liberty”, meaning councils had to carry out assessments of, and apply safeguards to, a much bigger group of residents. The Local Government Association and Adass estimate the extra costs of this to be £98m in 2014-15.

Mr Pearson said the failure to fund councils for the extra DoLS cases had become “a trust and confidence issue”.

He said: “It does bring into question the trust and confidence in them to do the right things in future around the Care Act… I think our confidence is being shaken by a lack of apparent action.”

Mr Pearson said Adass had told DH officials in June that, according to its research, the Supreme Court ruling had triggered a ten-fold rise in councils’ DoLS workloads. “They’ve collected information since which has confirmed what we told them,” he said.

“It isn’t just about the local authority funding situation, but it’s about making sure we’re able to do the right thing for the people concerned,” he said.

“Which services for disabled and older people do they think we should cut as a result of this, as we approach the Care Act?”

A DH spokeswoman said: “We want to make sure that the Mental Capacity Act is used to protect and empower vulnerable people and we’ve given councils £35m to do this.

“But we recognise that changes to what safeguards mean have increased workloads, which is why we’re cutting down on red tape and we will be considering what support is needed in future.”

She said the DH had commissioned new data collections in response to the Supreme Court judgment to measure the impact on local authorities.

Meanwhile, Adass and the LGA are calling for a change in the law so councils take full responsibility for all DoLS applications, replacing a system in which some cases are considered by the Court of Protection.

“This would obviously carry significant funding and workforce implications,” they said in the letter to health minister Norman Lamb. “If we can overcome them we would realise a more straightforward and cost effective system.”

View the full article by Kaye Higgins.