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Cash fear over social care future in West Norfolk

Council chiefs may not have enough money to pay for adult social care in West Norfolk next year, an industry group has warned.

Care England, an organisation which represents independent care homes, has called for the government to step in to ensure authorities like Norfolk County Council has the funds it needs.

The authority allocated three per cent of its council tax rises in each of the past two years to adult social care under central government rules.

Norfolk County Council headquarters (2733575)
Norfolk County Council headquarters (2733575)

But they only allow for a six per cent rise for the service over a three-year period meaning that, at the moment, the council cannot impose a similar rise next year without calling a local referendum.

Care England’s chief executive, Martin Green said: “Norfolk County Council has exhausted their social care precept flexibility over the course of the last two years.

“With budgets being tightened it is hard to envisage where the necessary extra funds will come from in 2019/20.

“We have long called for the ability to plan for the long term in order to have some stability in the sector both in terms of providers investing in services.

“But crucially for those in receipt of services having certainty over the services that they require remaining in place.

“Whilst it is commendable that Norfolk County Council has used the full flexibility of the adult social care precept to meet pressures, the outlook for 2019/20 looks very bleak and the government needs to step in urgently to avert care home closures as providers struggle with rising costs and low fees paid by councils.”

A spokesman from Norfolk County Council said: “We’ve recognised that under current government rules, we cannot raise the levy further next year.

“We have already raised this to three per cent for each of the last two years, the maximum allowed, and this has been part of our planning since 2016/17.

“Prudent plans in our current budget have been put in place. We hope the government’s Green Paper in September will outline longer term solutions to put adult social care on a sustainable footing.”

The county council says more than 15,000 adults per year by investing nearly £320 million to purchase adult social care services from more than 700 care providers.

A new document, published yesterday and due to be debated next week, also set out the authority’s plans to raise care standards over the next two years.

At the moment, Care Quality Commission inspections rate 75 per cent of providers as good or better, and the council said they are aiming to work with the providers to raise this to 85 per cent by 2020.

County adult social care committee chairman Bill Borrett said: “I want to see the 85 per cent target reached as soon as possible, The Care Act places a duty on councils to shape their local care market, so that it meets people’s needs.

“That’s why we are determined to work closely with care providers to continue to raise standards, so that we can aim to get 100 per cent of care providers rated as good or better.”

A committee meeting next Monday will also review the council’s contract with NorseCare in a bid to bring its costs into line with other providers.

Mr Borrett said: “We recognise that older people increasingly want to live independent lives, with appropriate support, rather than go into residential care.

“That’s why we are working with NorseCare to refocus residential care for people who really need it, especially those with dementia and work with the rest of the market to provide more housing with care.”

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