Under the Care Act, local authorities (also known as councils) have a duty to provide a range of providers, offering a choice of appropriate and high-quality services for people who require support. These local authorities are the source of funding for all people who require care in the UK.

Councils assess the needs of vulnerable people in the area, and their care is put out to tender for care providers like United Response to provide the support that these people need. Local authorities then pay providers like United Response to deliver the care.

In 2011, the Government began to change the way that local authorities are funded at the same time as severely cutting local government funding year by year. Rather than giving local authorities money from central government, Chancellor George Osborne wants councils to raise their own money. The Government argues that allowing local authorities to keep money raised from business rates, and also giving them powers to raise council tax, will make them self-sufficient.

In his Comprehensive Spending Review last November, George Osborne gave local authorities the power to raise council tax by 2%, but only if it was spent on adult social care. This is known as the 'precept'. The Chancellor stated that this was to give councils more money to pay for the rising costs of social care, without the money having to come from the central government’s budget.

Many local authorities and care providers are worried that the precept is nowhere near enough money to make up the shortfall in funding for social care provision. They insist that they still need more money from central Government to meet demand for the health and social care of vulnerable people - including the people that we support at United Response.

A mounting crisis

Added to this is mounting pressure as a result of the National Living Wage (NLW), which is a fantastic boost for hard-working care and support workers, but which has created a funding gap that central Government has not addressed since the policy was announced last summer.

United Response and other care providers have called on the Government to make sure that local authorities have enough money to be able to fund social care, and address the crisis. Without proper additional funding, the sector as a whole is facing a crisis - with potentially catastrophic effects for those who rely on our support.

Figures compiled by the Local Government Association (LGA) and released last week have pointed to a mounting crisis in care and support despite the precept.

The LGA’s research found that the pace at which central government funding will be phased out over the next few years was hugely unexpected and is placing significant pressure on some councils and their local services, which are already stretched to the limit by rising demand and years of growing funding pressures.

The financial difficulties caused by cuts and changes to council funding have inevitably affected social care, which forms the vast majority of all local authority spending.

Shortfall in funding

As well as the stark warning note from the LGA, some local authorities are beginning to report on a "catastrophe" affecting vulnerable people and their families throughout the country due to the lack of money available to adequately fund their care.

The LGA has calculated that, if all councils took advantage of the council tax precept, it would raise £400m in 2016-17. However, the LGA maintains that, overall, when the cuts in Government grants to councils are taken into account, authorities with social services responsibilities are facing a 3.2% cut in their budgets in 2016-17.

Another source of government support is an increase in the Better Care Fund – the government-mandated integrated budget with health – given directly to local authorities, which rises to £1.5bn in 2019-20. However, none of this money will be available in 2016-17 and very little (£105m overall) in 2017-18, with £825m pledged for 2018-19.

The LGA is urging the Government to bring forward £700m of the Better Care Fund funding to 2016-17 so that councils can fill the shortfall in funding in the coming year.

Campaign for change

United Response has alerted the Government to the current crisis and impending catastrophe for health and social care. We have asked it to address the consequences of its decision in 2011 to withdraw its entire general grant to local authorities by the end of this parliament.

Councils simply cannot meet their duty under the Care Act to provide high-quality care if they do not have the funding to do so.

United Response will go on raising disability and social care issues with relevant Government departments. We will also continue our work with coalitions, such as the Care and Support Alliance and Disability Benefits Consortium, to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society are not the victims of political decisions.

The drive to reduce government spending has human costs that are rising every day.

If you’re concerned about the future funding of health and social care, or the changing way disabled people are supported, please take action and write to your local MP.

Find your MP and contact them to voice your concerns

John JC Cooper, campaigns and public affairs manager.