Independent care sector can find reasons for optimism in gloomy ADASS Budget Survey
On the face of it, the publication of the annual ADASS (Association of Directors of Adult Social Services) Budget Survey reflects something of a bleak outlook for the social care sector, ahead of the publication of the much awaited green paper. The survey was completed by 100% of councils and can therefore be expected to provide a fair reflection of the state of the nation.
The survey reports that 78% of the directors who responded are concerned about their ability to meet the statutory duty to ensure market sustainability within existing budgets. Furthermore, only 9 of the 150 Directors who responded felt optimistic about the financial state of the wider health and social care economy over the next 12 months. Increasing demographic and cost pressures have revealed that, for the 8th year in succession, the proportion of councils’ total budgets to be spent on adult social care has increased, now representing 38p in every £1 spent by councils.
Looking deeper into the report however, it does seem that there is a place for the independent sector to work alongside councils in providing future social care. The report reveals that the majority of councils have increased fees by between 3% and 4.9%, with a significant number increasing fees by more than 5%. That is potentially encouraging news for independent providers and is perhaps a response to the loss of provision experienced in recent years. The ADASS report suggests that 58 councils reported closure of residential or nursing care providers in the last six months, although as this is only 38% of the respondent councils, it is questionable whether this reflects the true picture nationally.
Nevertheless, when questioned about areas where savings could be made, 71% of council respondents said that expanding independent sector provision was either quite important or very important. Furthermore, 72% described reverting to in-house provision as either not important or not applicable.
The funding pressures within the sector undoubtedly remain, and it will be interesting to see what provisions the green paper makes to address these. The ADASS survey reveals, however, that the majority of directors of adult social care see the independent sector as very much part of their future plans. It must be hoped that this will lead to more collaborative working between private providers and local authorities. The report certainly suggests that the opportunity exists for this to happen.