Somerset County Council has welcomed comments from MPs discussing potential changes to the funding of social care.
Although not supporting any specific approaches at this this stage, the authority is warmly welcoming fresh thinking on the subject at a time when the cost of care is contributing to big budget pressures.
Demand for social care is rising as the population ages, with many older people living longer with multiple health conditions. Funding has not kept pace and 42 per cent of the County Council’s budget – £140m per year – is now spent on social care. When you include money grants from health services and the contribution people make for their care, the spend is almost £220m.
Leader of the Council, David Fothergill, said: “I have said for some time that the way local authorities are funded is broken and needs fixing, and the search for a long-term plan for sustainably funding adult social care is fundamental to that.
“Local authorities and heads of social care services across the country speak as one when they say that this is a problem that has to be solved. It is complicated, and we would need to understand all the detail before it’s possible to give a view on what these MPs have said, but it is heartening to see some new thinking on this subject because that is what’s needed.
“The cost of caring for vulnerable adults and children accounts for nearly two-thirds of our budget, which puts additional stress on other services when our central government funding has been, and continues to be, greatly reduced.”
In the last eight years, the County Council has found savings of £130m in savings and efficiencies, as its main grant from central government has fallen from £89m in 2013/14 to £16m this financial year, while costs and demand have risen.
Cllr David Huxtable, Cabinet member for Adult Services, said: “We know that this is a big challenge for all councils. What we also know is that the longer the social care funding problem is not tackled, the harder it will be to fix.
“Care costs. Care for a single person can cost as much as £5,400 a week – more than quarter of a million pounds a year – and they may need that support for decades.
“It’s not just about money, we’ve changed the way we work, with more focus on preventative work at community level that delays the need for more costly, formal care. We are helping people live independent, active lives in their own homes and communities for as long possible, but in the long-term sustainable funding has to be part of the answer.”
In Somerset, by 2033 people aged 65 and over will make up more than 25 per cent of the population. In some areas that figure will be more than 50 per cent.