Sheffield is facing a ‘social care funding crisis’ and a £9m budget black hole.
The council’s new medium-term financial strategy has revealed £9.3m has been ‘temporarily’ taken out of reserves to cover the gap in funding for this year.
Sheffield Council is now urging the Government to let them access tens of millions of pounds to support social care services more quickly.
The council provides a wide range of services to older and vulnerable people.
But the new report states: “The projected budget gap for the Council’s social care services is caused by the increase in new funding failing to keep pace with the inexorable rise of cost pressures - especially due to national Living Wage inflation as well as demand.”
The Government is offering £2.2m next year to Sheffield through its Better Care Fund, followed by £12.6m in 2018/19 and £21.9m in 2019/20.
But the council is asking for the larger amounts of money to be ‘front-loaded’ so it can be used more efficiently to support adult and child social care services.
Councillor Ben Curran, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance and resources, said such a move would be particularly important as the council prepares for a further £120m of cuts over the next five years.
“We want the Government to pull the Better Care Fund forward - that would be really helpful for the city,” he said.
“It doesn’t come close to covering the pressures with adult social care.
“But if they front-load the money it would make quite a big difference to get things done more quickly.”
A joint decision is due to be made by the Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government by the end of the year.
He said a similar decision to move the majority of funding forwarded to earlier dates has been made in relation to the NHS.
The council report says the country has ‘reached a watershed in local government finance’, with continuing austerity raising ‘many questions about the purpose and sustainability of funding for local authorities’.
The Government has responded by allowing councils with responsibility for adult social care the chance to introduce additional two per cent council tax rises, known as the ‘social care precept’.
The council report says this extra fundraising power ‘does not go far enough in addressing the social care funding crisis in the longer term’.
It said: “This underlines the importance of lobbying Government for the Improved BCF Grant to be brought forward to 2017/18.
“The council would require all of the 2019/20 grant allocation to be brought forward to 2017/18 in order to close the funding gap.”
Sheffield Council said the Local Government Association has already argued for more of the Government cash to be made available more quickly to councils across the country.
The LGA said: “There is a continuing lack of proportionality between additional funding for the NHS and adult social care.
“While much of the funding for the NHS is front-loaded, additional resources from the Better Care Fund will not be available until 2017 and only £105 million will be available in 2017/18.
“This, with the incremental nature of the new adult social care council tax precept, means a further two years of pressure on a system that is already under significant strain.
“To ease this pressure the £700 million of new funding in the Better Care Fund must be brought forward to 2016/17.”
The Sheffield Council report said: “The council agrees that this new funding should be brought forward as soon as possible in order to address the social care funding crisis.”
It added: “The council currently receives £12.4m of funding via the NHS centrally to meet the costs of providing adult social care. In addition, from April 2015 the council has pooled its adult social care budget with that of the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
“The actual amount which the Council will receive from the CCG for the BCF is subject to ongoing discussions with the CCG. The Council’s 2016/17 budget includes a £9.3m corporate savings target that assumes either the CCG will provide additional income or recurrent savings on adult health and social care expenditure will be found.”
Under the ‘best case’ scenario for council finances, a £9.3m contribution from reserves to ‘temporarily bridge the gap between the council’s current level of expenditure and the amount of resources it can afford to contribute to the Better Care Fund pooled budget will be replaced with either additional funding from the CCG or through recurrent savings on adult health and social care expenditure’.
But it said that under the worst case, no extra money from the CCG will be granted and no further savings can be found.
The report said: “If additional funding from the CCG or recurrent savings on adult health and social care expenditure cannot be found by year-end, the council will face an additional pressure of £9.3m on next year’s budget.
“Discussions are under way with the CCG to resolve this.”