Conditions attached to the additional £2bn for social care announced at the budget have been revealed.
All of the additional grant will have to be pooled into local better care funds but the NHS will be required to maintain its contributions and not seek to offset the additional funding against its minimum contribution to adult social care.
The Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government published the 2017-19 Integration and Better Care Fund Policy Framework on Friday.
The document said additional funding could be spent on reducing pressures on the NHS, including supporting more people to be discharged from hospital when they are ready as well as ensuring that the local social care provider market is supported, including helping to cover the cost of implementing the national living wage.
The framework said section 151 officers will have to confirm that spending of the extra cash announced at the Budget, as well as the better care fund money provided at 2015 spending review, will be additional to prior plans for social care spending. Councils will also have to provide quarterly reports to the government on how the money is spent.
The conditons attached to the additional funding, which the framework describes as a social care grant, will be confirmed in April.
The document said: “The government has made clear that part of this funding is intended to enable local authorities to quickly provide stability and extra capacity in local care systems. Local authorities are therefore able to spend the grant, including to commission care, subject to the conditions set out in the grant determination, as soon as plans have been locally agreed.”
Linda Thomas , vice chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said that had been “unhelpful and misleading”. She said: “The policy framework for the better care fund, including the additional funding for social care, reiterates what was announced in the Budget by clearly stating that the funds can be used to meet adult social care need more generally and to help stabilise the care market as well as on measures to support hospital discharge.”
However, the number of national conditions attached to the better care fund have been halved to four. These are that the NHS contribution will increase in line with the inflation in clinical commissioning groups budgets; plans for spending the money must be signed off by the local health and wellbeing board as well as constituent councils and CCGs and plans must set out how areas will deliver system-wide improvements in transfers of care. Finally, areas should also agree how they will use their share of the improved better care fund for NHS commissioned out of hospital services ”which may include seven-day services and adult social care”.
An annex to the document said: “The funding must be used to contribute to the maintenance of adult social care services in each local authority, which also has a health benefit. However, beyond this broad condition, the Department of Health wants to provide flexibility for local areas to determine how this investment in adult social care services is best used.”
Meanwhile, a requirement to share data is no longer a condition, nor is gaining an agreement on the consequential impact of changes on providers. However, the framework added: “The removal of some national conditions from 2016-17 does not reflect a downgrading of the importance of these policies and we expect them to underpin local better care fund plans.”