Growing demand for adult social care is one of the biggest challenges facing Derby today.
As the city’s population ages, more and more people need support with dementia and other complex needs – and it is the Council’s responsibility to decide what support people need and fund it, when they are entitled.
Such care ranges from permanent stays in nursing homes, to supporting people to live independently by visiting them to assist with everyday tasks like washing, dressing and cooking.
There is an increasing focus on supporting people to stay in their own home wherever possible. This is what most people want and they generally stay healthier and have a better quality of life living in the community.
Even though this approach makes the best use of limited resources, it still costs the Council more than £500,000 every week.
The Council is one of the most successful in the country at implementing personal budgets. Four out of 10 people locally are now in control of deciding and organising their own care package, using Council money allocated directly to them.
More than 1,300 older Derby people are in residential or nursing care homes. This number has actually declined since 2008 as the Council has shifted more support to community settings, though population changes may push the total back up in coming years.
This shows how the overall need for adult social care continues to rise. In the next three years alone, it is expected to cost the Council an extra £13.8m overall – a pressure being experienced nationwide.
However, the Government has not provided additional funding for social care. Instead, it is giving local authorities the opportunity to raise more money themselves through council tax.
The Council is proposing to increase council tax bills by 4% in 2017/18. Half of this is a “precept”, allowed by the Government specifically to pay for adult social care. The precept is a power to raise income through local taxation delegated by central Government to councils.
Now all councils are being offered greater flexibility in how they apply this power. On top of the 2% already approved, an additional 1% can be raised in each of the next two years – as long as the total increase by 2019/20 does not exceed 6%.
The Council is considering the idea, but initial analysis suggests that it would have limited impact. Using up the power in the first two years would not be enough to plug the funding gap and would lead to even greater financial pressures in year three.
Derby’s situation is not helped by the fact that an unusually large proportion of homes are in the lower council tax bands, meaning that less income can be generated through council tax bills than elsewhere.
The Government’s own official funding measure suggests that Derby City Council’s core spending will drop by almost 2% next year. Only 21 out of 151 local authorities nationwide are in a worse position.
Despite this, the Council remains committed to ensuring that meeting the social care needs of local people remains a top priority.