Local authorities will have access to an extra £1 billion to help them fund social care and address coronavirus pressures next year, the Government has said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said investment in public services will allow councils to increase core spending by 4.5%, and they will have extra flexibility to increase council tax and social care precepts.
Councils will be able to access over £1 billion of spending for social care through a £300 million social care grant and the option to levy a 3% adult social care precept.
Local authorities will be able to increase council tax bills by 2% without needing a referendum.
Once again the Government has completely failed to deliver for social care. These vital services were already stretched to the limit before the pandemic struck, and are now having to spend billions more on Covid19. #SpendingReview 1/3
— Liz Kendall (@leicesterliz) November 25, 2020
But shadow care minister, Labour’s Liz Kendall, said the Government had “completely failed” to deliver for social care, while one charity called its approach “decidedly reckless”.
The National Care Forum (NCF), a member association of not-for-profit social care providers, said the funding is “wholly inadequate” and marks a “catastrophe” for social care.
Calling the Government’s move a “fundamental step backwards”, NCF director Vic Rayner said: “It has offered just £300 million of additional funding, to be split between adult and children’s care services, to a sector decimated by the catastrophic costs of providing care in Covid-19, a pandemic it entered whilst reeling from years of unfulfilled promises of reform and well documented underfunding.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK and co-chair of the CSA (Care and Support Alliance) said the funding was “insufficient”, adding: “Against the context of the pandemic, which is both driving up the level of need, and weakening the finances of providers, this is a decidedly reckless approach.
“Local authorities are once again being asked to square an impossible circle and this ungenerous settlement does very little to help the NHS either.
“However, it’s older and disabled people, and their families and carers, who will as ever pay the biggest price, with more likely to have to manage without the support they need.
“This is a bitter pill to swallow, especially after everything social care has been through this year.”
The new funding is in addition to the £1 billion social care grant announced last year which is being maintained.
The Government expects to provide local authorities with more than £3 billion to address Covid-19 pressures, including in adult social care.
Ministers said this will help councils maintain care services “while keeping up with rising demand and recovering from the impact of Covid-19”.
It will bring forward proposals for the long-term reform of the adult social care system next year.
Ms Kendall tweeted: “£1bn ‘extra’ Chancellor announced today is nowhere near enough to fill this gap & £700m of this would have to come from social care precept on council tax.
“As for PM’s repeated promises to fix the care crisis, long-term reforms are still nowhere to be seen.
“He promised they’d be published this year & has once again broken his word. Families, care workers & the NHS need a properly functioning care system – and they need it now.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) said hiking taxes has “never been the answer to the long-term pressures faced by councils, particularly in social care”.
Councillor James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said funding will help address “some – but not all” of the pressures on social care services, adding: “Councils will still have to find savings to already stretched budgets in order to plug funding gaps and meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget next year.
“As we look to build back better from the devastating social and economic impact of this crisis, this will be a blow to our communities and will hamper local and national recovery efforts.”
Professor Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, welcomed “every penny” but said the funding was “too little too late”.
He added: “Unfortunately on previous occasions when the Government gave huge amounts of money to local authorities it did not reach the front line so we have grave concerns about the delivery mechanism.”
The Government also announced that NHS doctors and nurses will receive a pay rise next year, but pay rises in the rest of the public sector will be paused.
Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nursing staff across the board will oppose plans to freeze the pay of equally skilled professionals.
“Those working in social care and the community deserve a pay boost as much as their NHS colleagues.”