More than 50,000 extra people could demand social care assessments from councils in 2016 when a £72,000 cap on care costs is introduced, according to Department of Health figures.

The figures, published today alongside a consultation on the government’s plans to reform care funding, show local authorities will face significant new demand, forcing them to employ extra staff to cope.

The demand will be created because individuals’ care payments will not count towards the £72,000 cap unless they have had a local authority assessment and set up a “care account” to measure how much they have spent.

The DH has set up a £335m budget to help councils prepare for the extra pressure and said it is “seeking evidence on the best way to deal with this challenge and make the most of the opportunities offered”.

One option under consideration is to allow councils to start the assessments six months before the cap is introduced in April 2016.

HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle has seen figures from Hertfordshire County Council that estimate it would need to provide care assessments for 6,000 extra people in 2016, followed by an additional 2,000 care assessments every year. The extra 2,000 per year will require about 140 extra staff at a cost of £5.2m per year, council papers state, adding that it will be difficult to recruit additional staff to meet the initial surge in demand.

The DH consultation document also provides details of the universal deferred payments scheme, in which councils will have to pay residents’ care costs and recover the money from the sale of their estate.

It says councils will be able to charge interest at a nationally-set rate, to be announced after the consultation, adding that a cap on interest payments is being considered, to “protect those in care for a long time”.

However, it says, authorities “should not aim to make a profit” from the deferred payments scheme.

Up to 40,000 people could use the deferred payments scheme, the consultation document says.

The document also reveals that for people entering a care home, the value of their house will not be included in the assessment of their assets if a partner or dependent still lives in the home. In this situation if a person has assets of less than £27,000, excluding their house, they will qualify for financial support from the local authority.

The consultation will run until 25 October.

Meanwhile, a report from the Audit Commission found £465m could have been saved in councils’ social care spending in 2011-12 if outlying councils reduced their spending in line with their comparable peers.

It found the average local authority spend per resident aged over 65 was £1,158 in 2011-12, a 13 per cent decrease since 2009-10.

A separate Local Government Association report, also published today, said councils were finding it increasingly difficult to save money in social care by reducing bureaucracy. The proportion of efficiency savings that came from back-office functions fell from 50 per cent in 2012-13 to 43 per cent in 2013-14, it found.

The LGA report found that the proportion of savings that came from “managing demand” had risen from 20 per cent to 25 per cent in the same period.