Council warns that government's adult social care plans will cost Oxfordshire taxpayers millions of pounds

Reforms to adult social care payments will create serious financial difficulties for Oxfordshire County Council and fellow local authorities in England unless government properly funds the costs, it has been warned.

 In September 2021, the government announced reforms to adult social care to be implemented over the next 18 months that include changes to the rules that oversee the costs that individuals pay towards their own care and fees paid to providers. These include:

  • A new adult social ‘care cap’ that limits the amount that individuals will have to pay for the cost of their care to £86,000.
  • Changes to the regime of financial assessments used to work out if and how much a council will pay towards the cost of someone’s care. Changes could potentially double the number of people who are eligible for financial support in Oxfordshire.
  • A move towards a single tariff for care and ensuring market sustainability - which will likely see a significant increase in the rates councils pay to providers. The new proposals will enable people who self-fund their care to be able to ask councils to arrange care on their behalf. The plans may also see a significant increase in the care fees paid by councils where necessary to make the care market sustainable.

Nationally, a County Councils Network report estimates that the costs of reforms in the nine years from when they are introduced to 2032 could be a minimum of £10 billion higher than currently estimated and could create a further workforce crisis in social care, with over 5,000 extra staff projected to be required to carry out extra care and financial assessments for those seeking to benefit from the reforms.

 Oxfordshire County Council has an annual budget of £212 million for adult social care which represents 40 per cent of its overall budget. It is responsible for funding care for more than 6,200 adults – made up of older people, people with learning, physical and mental health disabilities.

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services said: “We want to continue to provide an excellent service for Oxfordshire residents who require advice and guidance and we are fully aligned with efforts to deliver fairness and equity for current and prospective residents who may need our support. But there is very real concern being raised by councils across England that the government has significantly underestimated the costs of implementing their reforms. This is the biggest financial risk that we and our fellow councils currently face and runs into many millions of pounds each year.

Councillor Calum Miller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “The study conducted for the County Council Network (CCN) proves beyond doubt that the money the government has set aside does not even come close to meeting the anticipated costs for local government. Government has adopted changes that will increase both the costs and the number of people eligible for local authority support but they have short-changed councils and their residents.

“Unless government funds its reforms fully, it is passing the buck to local taxpayers. Like many councils, Oxfordshire faces real financial constraints. If we have to put millions into adult social care, that means millions we cannot spend on other priorities like maintaining roads, keeping libraries open or supporting vulnerable young people.

“We welcome the attempts the government is making to limit the amount individuals pay. However, having raised £12 billion a year through the new national insurance levy, government needs to use this money as it was intended: for tackling the social care crisis. We support the CCN’s call on the government to urgently review adult social care funding.

“Last winter councils were allowed by government to raise an adult social care precept as part of the 2022/23 council tax rise. We had to raise this to meet the immediate funding need but we now need a nationwide approach with adequate funding."

Councillor Bearder added: “On a more general level it is also worth pointing out that these reforms do not comprehensively deal with the increases in the complexity of demands being placed on social care. Nor do they address the longstanding demographic pressures that have for many years now been leading to ever more people accessing social care services across the country. In addition, they do not fully address the insufficient supply of appropriate care or increasing labour shortages. 

 “It is in all of our interests that these reforms relating to the amounts individuals pay towards their care operate to the benefit of all individuals and organisations involved in the world of adult social care. They clearly need to work for vulnerable people in receipt of care. However, they also need to work for providers and for the local authorities. Oxfordshire County Council is at the frontline of this challenge. Unless we see urgent action from the government, we could see a real hit to the services we provide for some of our most vulnerable residents.” 

 The CCN report is available online .