learning disabilities
© Miriam Doerr |

The costs of caring for adults with learning disabilities is projected to increase by almost £2bn by 2025 – with England’s largest councils warning that unless these ‘enormous’ costs are recognised, the ‘long-term’ survival of councils is at risk

The County Councils Network (CCN) has released analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP ahead of the start of its annual conference, which begins today. (Monday 19th Nov) The figures show that the extra costs, fuelled by a rise in the number of adults with severe learning disabilities requiring care and an increase in the cost of supporting them, will see annual costs rising from £4.8bn in 2015 to £6.7bn in 2025 collectively for all 152 councils with care responsibilities.

The analysis shows that ‘spending need’ – which takes into account projected demand and the higher costs of delivering services – for adults with learning disabilities could rise by almost 38% by 2025. The number of adults requiring care is projected to rise by over 7,600 by 2025. Because of the nature of care for these individuals, they come at a high cost for local authorities.

Opening CCN Annual Conference 2018, the network’s chairman Cllr Paul Carter will tell over 200 delegates that the funding announced for councils in last month’s Budget has provided a short-term ‘lifeline’ for local authorities and will praise the government’s intervention.

However, looking ahead to next year’s Spending Review, he will say that ministers must recognise these ‘enormous’ extra care costs to ‘ensure the long-term survival of councils’.

To help meet these extra costs, he will call on the government to consider investing one-fifth of the NHS £20bn ‘birthday windfall’ into social care and community care to address these demand-led financial pressures.

Launching the CCN’s Spending Review campaign, A Fair Future for Counties, the Network argues that any new funding for local government must be distributed to councils fairly to account for rising costs, such as learning disabilities.

The figures released by the CCN show a large variation in costs across the country. County local authorities will bear the brunt of these additional costs; with costs rising by £918m in the 36 county authorities by 2025, which is half of all additional costs. This compares to £313m in London and £350m in other urban metropolitan areas and cities.

CCN argues that these additional costs are outside of councils’ control, and as a result they will have to cut other highly valued services or introduce new or increased charges for other services to make up the shortfall if no extra resource is made available to councils from 2020 onwards.

Providing care for adults with severe learning disabilities is a legal requirement. Due the nature of their circumstances, their costs largely fall onto the local authority, unlike ‘self-funders’ in other social care services who have a certain amount of assets and personal wealth.

County leaders are concerned that with the focus on adult social care, the mounting pressures in learning disabilities will fall under the radar in next year’s Spending Review.

Around 1.5m people in the UK have a learning disability, and of this number 350,000 people have a severe learning disability.

Cllr Carter, who is also leader of Kent County Council, will today tell delegates at the CCN Annual Conference 2018: “Our campaign for emergency funding to help us through both the current and coming financial year has been successful. I can confidently say exceeded all expectations. Without this additional funding from government, the consequences would have been severe. So, to Government, thank you for listening, thank you for responding.

“But, we are under no illusion that the challenges we face in the future will have somehow disappeared. Take for instance learning disabilities. Analysis published today by CCN, shows that the annual costs of providing services to the our most vulnerable adult disabled will be almost £2bn higher in 2025 than a decade ago, with 49% of these costs falling in counties.

“Individuals with severe learning disabilities are thankfully living longer and have a much-improved quality life, due to great advances in medical science. However, they understandably have little if any personal wealth or assets, and therefore escalating costs fall directly on our councils.

“The government’s recent announcements have provided us with a lifeline for next year, but to ensure the long-term survival of councils these enormous extra costs must be recognised and the situation rectified in the Spending Review.

“As part of a funding and integration package with the NHS, I believe that this should mean at least 20% of the NHS’ £20bn ‘birthday present’ should invested directly by councils in community-based care to meet growing demand in areas such as learning disabilities.”

Separately, Cllr Carter used his speech to describe the fair funding review as a key element to CCN’s future advocacy and of the network’s Fairer Future for Counties campaign. However he said that metropolitan borough councils face many of the same funding challenges as counties.

Cllr Carter added: “I want to make it quite clear that CCN is in no way trying to skew the dice to the advantage of counties but to provide Government with robust evidence across all of local government that supports the need for change. “We may gain on the swings and lose on some of the roundabouts.

“However, one thing I am sure of, is that provided the new funding model is fair, needs-led and evidence-based, counties’ share of the funding cake will be proportionality greater than under the current complex, opaque system that it replaces.

“To help us in this endeavour, CCN has commissioned PwC to provide independent, robust, evidence of the demand-led pressures and importantly the comparisons between ourselves and our metropolitan counterparts, where indeed pressures and needs may be different and should therefore be reflected if the formula is to be truly fair.”

The network’s chairman rounded off his speech by outlining his vision for county authorities in the future, and by addressing the recent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) review, which county leaders argue dilutes the role of local authorities on LEP boards.

He added:“On economic growth, industrial strategies, shared prosperity funds and skills, our relationship with LEPs will be crucial.

“The proposed downgrading of local government representation on LEP Boards are a backward step. We must not get embroiled in governance in arrangements when we need to support the Government in accelerated housing delivery and economic growth.

“If government is to devolve the skills agenda to LEP geographies, these governance arrangements become even more important.

“I am convinced that empowered as strategic authorities, counties can rise above the parapet and be an even more visible presence in non-metropolitan England.”


  1. My sister is sixty years of age with severe learning and physical disabilities.the council closed her daycentre, with no consultation. ..the offer of an alternative was for a young inexperienced carer to take her out on public transport for two hours a day.to McDonalds etc. the McDonalds here is full of young gang members and always in the news.. she is sixty, extremely vulnerable, physically weak and that’s what they offer.needles to say I now have her home with me 24.7… not healthy for either of us.all for £64.40 a week carer’s allowance.a decent home would costs£2,000 a week.its disgraceful how we are treated.


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