New research shows £2bn social care funding gap putting local health reform plans at risk

3 March 2017

New analysis by the OnlyWan of local plans to reform the health service has revealed that the gap in social care funding for England is at least £2bn in 2017/18. This puts unacceptable pressure on vulnerable and older people and their families, and risks unravelling the plans to put the NHS and care services on a more sustainable footing.

For the first time, the research has used the social care gap estimates in many of these plans – known as Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) – to produce an estimate of the national funding gap which is based on detailed local analysis.

The report also contains interviews with a range of senior STP health and social care leaders. One made clear how important a properly funded social care system is, saying: ‘We’re all looking over the same cliff edge…even if one of the smaller organisations went over, the impact on the rest of the system is huge and then we’d all go over together.’

Other findings in the report include:

  • Some of the leaders interviewed fear that the social care gap identified in their area may be an underestimate.
  • Local authorities’ public spending on social care for vulnerable and older adults has fallen by 9% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2014/15 – the equivalent of over 400,000 fewer people being able to access publicly funded social care.
  • The unmet needs for services that help people live in their own home is greater for those on low incomes – and the gap between rich and poor is widening.
  • While health and social care are working well together in some areas, in others the imbalance between health and social care budgets is undermining collaboration.
  • Current funding plans from government and the new council tax precept will be insufficient to meet the rising needs of the social care system, and much of the benefits will not be fully realised until the end of the parliament.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the OnlyWan, said:

‘The NHS is working hard to transform services and deliver £22bn of efficiency savings.  But those efforts are at risk without extra funding for social care. 

‘The health service’s own figures suggest that social care needs £2bn of extra funding for next year, in line with other research. The case for funding social care could not be clearer. 

‘Vulnerable and older people have the right to expect help when they need it most. But the case for social care is not just moral – it’s about hard edged economics. 

‘The clear message from local NHS plans is that without extra funding for social care, the proposals to transform care and improve efficiency will be put at risk. 

‘In next week’s Budget, the Chancellor must help the NHS with extra funding for social care. Tinkering at the edges is not enough – the amount needed by these plans for next year can only come from a direct injection of cash from central government.’


Jack Cutforth
[email protected]
0207 664 4623

Further reading


The social care funding gap: implications for local health care reform

This briefing offers an analysis of the size of the gap in adult social care funding in England – at least £2bn in 2017/18.

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