County councils in England say long-awaited social care reforms should be delayed due to the sector facing a “perfect storm” of staffing and financial pressures.
Reforms to protect against unsustainable care costs and make more people eligible for state support come into force from October 2023.
They include a more generous means-test and cap on care costs of £86,000 – two policies supported by the County Councils Network (CCN).
But the network, which represents 23 county councils and 13 unitary authorities covering some 25 million people, warns the significant pressure the system is already under means the Government should push back the reforms’ introduction to October 2024 or face worsening the availability and quality of care.
CCN adult social care spokesman Martin Tett said the system is “facing a perfect storm of financial and workforce pressures”.
“These reforms could exacerbate this by extending the eligibility of state support for care costs provided by local authorities,” the councillor added.
“Councils face a mountain of extra assessments that will be impossible to deliver because of current capacity and financial issues in local government.
“Loading these reforms on to a system that is already in crisis could worsen care services by the time these reforms to ‘fix’ social care are introduced.
“Newly eligible people next October could face substantial waits for a care assessment whilst the quality of care for those already provided for could worsen as councils struggle with the extra demand amidst rising costs.
“Councils remain committed to supporting these reforms, but it is imperative councils have the time to mitigate the pressures they will create, recruit a sufficient number of staff and stabilise services in the short term. If not, these reforms could be unworkable at inception.”
It comes after councils last month called on Prime Minister Liz Truss to honour her promise to put billions into social care, with Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng saying the national insurance hike used to pay for the reforms will be reversed from November.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said on September 23 that £6 billion is needed immediately to increase care worker pay, meet demographic and inflationary pressures and stabilise the provider market, with the rest needed “urgently”.
Ms Truss has said her “first priority” on social care is properly funding it over the winter because there are “too many” people staying in hospital due to a lack of spaces.
Labour, meanwhile, has pledged to recruit care workers by guaranteeing fair pay, workers’ rights and appropriate training under a National Care Service as it claimed “too many private equity firms are failing” in their duties to residents.