County council ‘utterly transparent’ about expected shortfall funding social care reforms

Nottinghamshire County Council's County Hall
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Nottinghamshire County Council’s social care cabinet member has said it is important for the authority to be “utterly transparent” about the challenges it faces in implementing upcoming social care reforms.

New reports show the council could be hit with a bill of as much as £90m in bringing forward the Government-led reforms, with almost £42m of this coming in the Fair Cost of Care changes.

This reform will see a significant rise in the amount councils pay to care agencies and home care providers per hour, with documents confirming the hourly fee could rise from slightly above £19 to £23.50 per hour.

The reforms, which are all due to begin implementation in 2023, will also see a means-tested cap of £86,000 for personal spending on care throughout someone’s lifetime.

Senior officials within the council have raised concerns over the funding provision from Whitehall, with the Government yet to provide proportional allocations to local authorities for each of its reforms.

Melanie Brooks, corporate director for social care at the authority, has also written to the Government to state current funding projections will not be “sufficient to meet the stated objectives” specifically for Fair Cost of Care.

And now Councillor Matt Barney (Con), portfolio holder for adult social care, has told his fellow cabinet members the potential financial risk from the reforms is “quite scary”.

Speaking in the cabinet meeting on Thursday (July 14), he praised the benefit the reforms will have in addressing long-standing issues in the sector but said it is important for the authority to be open about the risks.

He said: “When you get into the detail of it, it’s potentially quite scary stuff and we need to highlight this risk. Hopefully, this risk won’t come to pass but it is there and we need to be aware of it.

“I know there’s a sense of anxiety in this authority about how we meet these risks. There is an allocation of funding but the problem is that this funding has not been set out proportionately.

“The numbers are huge and, for this authority, if we’re not able to meet this risk, we could be talking about perhaps a £90m shortfall in our annual funding – which is huge.

“It’s pretty significant and that’s why we’re flagging it. The money is there, it’s just the detail for it needs to come forward.”

The Government has allocated funding pots for the reforms, but local authorities are yet to be told exactly how much they will receive directly.

The Fair Cost of Care reform, for example, has been allocated £600m per year in 2023 and 2024, and the council says it expects to receive 1.47 per cent of this per year based on previous financial years.

This would equate to £8.82m per year to fund a £41.57m reform, leaving a funding black hole of £32.75m.

In the East Midlands as a whole, the reform is expected to cost local authorities £802m over the coming decade.

Other projections for the region include between £614m and £743m over a decade for the £86,000 care cap and the creation of 221 care workers and 45 financial assessor roles to bring forward the reforms.

Speaking last week, a Department for Health spokesperson said: “Reforming adult social care is a priority and we are investing £5.4bn over the next three years to end spiralling care costs and support the workforce.

“This includes £3.6 billion to reform the social care charging system and enable all local authorities to move towards paying providers a fair cost of care, and a further £1.7 billion to begin major improvements across adult social care in England, funded by the Health and Social Care Levy.

“Our investment via the levy is on top of record annual funding to help councils respond to rising demands and cost pressures.”

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