Can councils afford social care reforms?

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Funding fears may jeopardise system reforms

Local councils in England have raised concerns over whether they have enough money to carry out social care reforms, including capping the amount of money patients pay for their own care.

Innovative changes to the adult social care system aim to cap the amount some people pay towards their care at £72,000, allowing them to apply for council funding. However a poll of 152 councils in England showed that nine in 10 were worried about the cost of the new scheme, despite receiving extra funding to help finance the change.

The reforms strive to protect those who face huge care costs once they enter residential care. Available for those with the most severe needs only, the cap will initially be set at £72,000 during a person’s lifetime.  Although the scheme plans to be fully in place in April 2016, work begins next April to start assessing the 400,000 patients who currently pay for their own care to see if they will qualify for help. The assessments are needed to ensure that all relevant patients will be included towards the cap once the system is in place.

Additional pressure

The survey was carried out by the Local Government Association (LGA), who question whether councils will be able to meet these new requirements. The LGA, which has long been campaigning about the squeeze on council budgets, has written to care services minister Norman Lamb on behalf of councils to raise its concerns.

Councillor Katie Hall, of the LGA, told BBC News “Councils want to help as many people who require support and care as possible, however, with only eight months to go until councils will have to start implementing these changes, the clock is ticking for government to get the funding right so that these vital reforms do not face collapse before they have even begun.” Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, added that a “great new system on paper is pointless unless there is sufficient funding in place.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman suggested there should be enough money available, saying councils had received an extra £1.1 billion this year to protect social care services.