Councils’ expenditure on social care continues to rise at an alarming rate, business and financial adviser Grant Thornton has warned.
Research by the firm found 47% of councils overspent on their adult social care budget in 2018/19, a 7% increase compared to 2017/18.
Nick Clarke, head of social care consulting at Grant Thornton UK said councils are reporting huge overspends, leaving many struggling to fulfil their statutory duties.
“Across the country, local authority services are under significant and increasing pressure. The number of high cost placements is at record levels; needs are more complex at the time of requesting a service, leaving monopolies of the care market rising at a worrying rate,” he added.
At a national level, 2015/16 marked the fourth successive year of unit cost reductions within adult social care, dropping from £362.39 to £335.76 over this period.
However, 2016/17 proved to be a turning point with the introduction of the social care precept, with unit costs increasing in every subsequent year. Nationally, there has been a 9% increase in unit costs for adult social care since 2016.
The shift from decreasing to rising costs has been most prominent in the North West. In the three years before 2015/16 the regional unit cost decreased by 10.5%, whereas in the three years since there has been an increase of 14.6%.
In 2018/19 the South West recorded the highest unit cost for adult social care at £423.75. This is a significantly greater cost than any other region at more than 15% above the national average (£367.11). Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the lowest unit cost at £340.96.
Clarke said although ageing is a contributor to rising costs, complexity is a bigger factor in current and future pressures.
“And where there is scarcity for complex provision, prices tend to rise,” he explained.