Social care spending down by more than 5% in Sheffield following decade of austerity

Spending on adult social care has fallen by £57 per person in Sheffield over the last decade amid swingeing cuts up and down England, exclusive analysis shows.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 7:27 am
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 4:58 pm

New health secretary Sajid Javid claimed last month that fixing social care remains an “absolute priority” for the Government, when he took over office from disgraced former minister Matt Hancock

But new analysis by NationalWorld has revealed the reality of stark spending reductions in communities across the country over the last 10 years – despite our aging population – with northern and midlands regions bearing far worse than the south, outside London.

NHS Digital data shows Sheffield Council spent £190.7 million on adult social care in 2019/20.

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Social care spending in Sheffield has fallen
Social care spending in Sheffield has fallen

After adjusting for inflation, that was a real-terms cut of £10.6m (5.3%) compared to 2010-11, when spending stood at £201.3m.

That was the equivalent of £57 less per adult resident.

Adult social care includes all support for people aged 18 or over, including short or long-term care in the community or residential settings, for physical or learning difficulties or ill health.

Across Yorkshire and The Humber, spending fell by 1.1%, or £20.9 million, over the same 10-year period, compared to an average drop of 2.1% across England.

In total, northern regions saw cuts of 3.4% and the midlands regions 5.9%. That compares to a rise of 4.8% across the South East, South West and East of England regions.

The figures refer to gross current expenditure. It only includes day-to-day spending on care, excluding capital spending such as on buildings or other physical assets, and includes the contributions made by clients towards the cost of their council-arranged care.

A recent report by the government spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) found spending had fallen by 4% nationally since 2010-11 (3.9% by NationalWorld’s calculations).

That uses a measure known as net current expenditure – the same as gross current expenditure except it excludes client contributions, to only look at the cost burden on councils.

Here too NationalWorld’s analysis reveals huge disparities – the North East was worst hit, with a drop of 16.4%, followed by London on 15.5%. Yorkshire and the Humber saw a fall of 1.8%.

In Sheffield spending rose by 8.0%, using this measure.

IPPR North, a public policy think tank for the north of England, said the central government’s programme of austerity since 2010 had hit the region disproportionately hard.

“It had a huge disproportionate effect on local government and public sector spending,” said campaigns manager Rosie Lockwood.

“Austerity can’t continue and we can’t continue to see capacity taken out of local authorities, in order to be able to support the social care sector in the future.”

Council-arranged social care is funded through a mix of central government grants, general council tax and the social care precept portion of council tax, as well as means-tested fees for those receiving care.

The NAO report said central government funding to local authorities had been cut by 55% since 2010-11, which had reduced their spending power by 29%.

IPPR said this likely meant that social care provision had been stripped back by councils trying to balance their books

“People with lighter touch needs might not be getting the support they need,” said senior research fellow Erica Roscoe.

“There is a finite amount of support the council can offer, whether that’s staff or funding.”

Figures from Public Health England show people in the North East have on average the shortest healthy life expectancy of any English region.

People in Yorkshire and The Humber also have a shorter than average healthy life expectancy at birth – 61.2 years for men and 61.9 years for women. That is two years and 2.6 years shorter respectively than the national average – 63.2 years for men and 64.5 years for women.

They also can expect to live a shorter time before developing disabilities. Men in Yorkshire and The Humber have a disability-free life expectancy of 60.8 years, 1.9 years shorter than the 62.7 year average.

For women, the figure is 59.1 years, compared to an average 61.2 years – a gap of 2.1 years.

Ms Roscoe said the low-wage economy and resultant increased poverty levels in the northern regions relative to the south impacts the need for care.

“Health and poverty are inextricably linked, so of course with that comes higher levels of poor health and greater demand on the health system,” she said.

IPPR senior research fellow and health and care expert Chris Thomas said the new health secretary needed time to demonstrate his commitment to social care.

He said: “Hopefully it will be taken forward now in tangible action but I think the proof of the pudding is basically the Government has a commitment to bring forward a proper reform plan for social care by the end of the year.

“If the plan is either weak or delayed, as we know social care plans are very liable to be delayed from recent experience, that will be a very bad sign in terms of is there commitment there.”

The Department of Health and Social Care was approached for comment.

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