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Scrap plan for single word inspection ratings for underfunded adult social care services - LGA

“It is clear that most councils are struggling to meet all of their legal duties under the Care Act. Given that, it seems absurd to push ahead with single word ratings for adult social care departments."

Government plans to introduce a single-word rating system for adult social care services should be scrapped given concerns about the ability of councils to meet all of the legal duties they will be judged against, following years of underfunding, the Local Government Association says today.

From the Autumn, and following a series of live pilots, the Care Quality Commission regulator will begin a new assessment regime which will see councils handed an overall rating of either ‘inadequate’, ‘requires improvement’, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ as part of a new system of adult social care assurance introduced by the Government. 

Ahead of the LGA’s Annual Conference - which begins in Bournemouth next week – councils insist that it is unhelpful and unproductive to give single word ratings to such a complex service which is struggling with the consequences of years of underfunding 

The latest Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) survey found three quarters of directors of adult social care are not confident they can meet their legal duties under the Care Act – these are the duties against which they will be assessed by the new CQC assurance system.

The LGA, which represents 350 councils across England, said narrative reports – instead of single-word ratings alone - would provide a more useful and balanced picture of the quality of services.

Adult social care has faced over a decade of underfunding and unmet and under-met need has grown as a consequence. Extra money announced for adult social care in last year’s Autumn Statement will help ease pressures but much of it will be absorbed by meeting demography, pay and inflationary pressures and it falls well short of what is needed to allow councils to fully deliver against their Care Act duties given wider workforce and care market pressures.

In addition to funding for adult social care now through the Autumn Statement, the LGA also continues to question the adequacy of earmarked funding for wider reform of care and support. LGA analysis shows: 

  • £250 million investment in measures to support the social care workforce equates to £78 per worker per year;
  • £102 million investment for home adaptions, which are to help people stay in their home or to get home more quickly after a stay in hospital is under £27 per household per year for those people living with a health condition who require a home adaptation;
  • £25 million for unpaid carers works out at £5 per carer.

The Government needs to be realistic in setting expectations of what can be achieved even with this funding. Councils continue to work hard to protect vital adult social care services and meet their statutory duties having diverted billions of pounds away from other council services in recent years to try and keep them afloat.

However, this has not been enough to avoid cuts to services with the ADASS survey also showing social care directors are having to find savings of £806 million this year, up from £597 million in 2022/23, to balance the books.

The LGA said government needs to provide immediate investment to end this crisis, address unmet and under-met need and urgently agree a long-term funding and reform plan to allow all people to access the care services they need to live an equal life.

Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: 

“It is clear that most councils are struggling to meet all of their legal duties under the Care Act. Given that, it seems absurd to push ahead with single word ratings for adult social care departments, which would oversimplify what are very complex services to deliver. As it stands, councils are being set up to fail. 

“The Government must ensure that the assurance process is, and remains, productive and supportive for councils. Sufficient time must be given to learn the lessons from the pilot sites. Councils want to give full transparency to their residents on how their adult social care services are is performing, but a single word ratings does not do justice to the complex and parlous state that adult social care is in.

”Working with people who draw on care and support, councils and care providers, the Government also needs to urgently develop and implement a fully costed, long-term, sustainable plan to fund social care.”