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County Leaders welcome reports that the government is considering delaying new reforms

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Even just a few days are a long time in Politics it seems, so we’re watching this space closely, but earlier this week we heard that the Government is considering delaying the introduction of its new social care reforms.

On the face of it, we think that’s a good thing. We agree with the reforms – they’re to enable more people to receive financial support for adult social care, which is good – but it is the Government’s duty to ensure they are fully costed and adequately funded.

If Government doesn’t it will mean councils will have to find millions of pounds of money from cuts in public services to pay for the reforms. We and lots of councils are concerned that the impact of introducing the Government’s reforms without adequate funding will therefore be very heavy on residents and communities.

All this comes on top of already severe pressure on social care. Here in Devon we are taking urgent action to bring an overspend in adult social care of £5.6 million in this financial year under control, and face a forecast overspend of between £30 million to £40 million over the next 10 years. Inflation is adding to those pressures and forecast to add £3.6 billion to the cost of providing social care in England’s counties next year.

That’s why we’ve been backing a call from the County Councils Network for the Government to postpone the introduction of these new reforms, which are due to come in next October.

Right now, councils do not have enough money, nor is there sufficient workforce capacity within social care, to implement the changes that the reforms will bring.

On seeing reports that the Government is now thinking of delaying the introduction of the reforms, County leaders across the country this week welcomed the news, but warned that the funding, promised by Government for social care, must be retained by councils and reprioritised, and not used as ‘savings’ as part of the Government’s Medium-Term Fiscal Plan.

Councillor James McInnes, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for adult social care, said today:

“With all that’s happening at Westminster, we’ll have to see what comes out of it, but if reports that the government is considering delaying the introduction of these reforms become fact, then that’s good news.

“The consequence otherwise is that the extra pressures that the reforms will bring, on a social care system right now that is not properly funded and that does not have sufficient workforce capacity to meet demand, could worsen current services, leaving people waiting longer for care and impacting on the quality of that care.

“Even looking ahead to twelve months-time, it’s difficult to see what will have changed significantly in terms of workforce supply and local government finances that would make these reforms deliverable without fundamental changes to the Government’s plans.”