CARE providers are warning of a “very bleak” future for care providers with councils across Dorset expecting a funding shortfall next year.

Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset County councils will all be unable to raise extra funds through council tax bills next year having used the maximum allowed in the previous two years.

Experts on the care sector are warning that next year’s financial gap could force some care homes, which are particularly reliant on local authority funding, out of business.

The adult social care precept scheme was brought in by the Government ahead of the 2016/17 financial year allowing councils to charge two per cent on top of council tax bills specifically for funding work in this area.

This was updated the following year to enable local authorities to use the six per cent total across the three years as councils wished – anything over this would require approval through a referendum.

As a result, about a third of councils – including Bournemouth, Poole, Dorset County, and Hampshire County – are now at the six per cent limit with one year left before the scheme finishes.

Professor Martin Green OBE, the chief executive of Care England – which represents independent care providers, described the situation as “very bleak”.

“These local authorities have exhausted their social care precept over the course of the last two years and with budgets being tightened it is hard to envisage where the necessary extra funds will come from in 2019/20,” he said.

“Care England has long called for the ability to plan for the long term in order to have some stability in the sector both in terms of providers investing in services, but crucially for those in receipt of services having certainty over the services that they may require remaining in place.

“Whilst it is commendable that councils have used the full flexibility of the adult social care precept to meet pressures, the outlook for 2019/20 looks very bleak and the Government needs to step in urgently to avert care home closures as providers struggle with rising costs and low fees paid by councils.”

Raina Summerson, CEO of Portland-based Agincare, local enterprise partnership ambassador and member of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said that care providers were already feeling the pinch.

“I think the strain on individual providers could tell next year,” she said. “While there is a responsibility on us to innovate and adapt, some companies, especially those more reliant on local authority funding, could go into liquidation.

“Not enough is being done to properly fund care across the country and the knock-on effect is that it pushes more people into NHS and hospital care – making the problem worse.”

“It needs better Government funding and so far we’ve not seen any promise of that.”

The Government has said that it will publish a consultation on its plans for social care this year.

Dorset County Council said it was unable to comment until its 2019/20 budget had been finalised.

Neither Bournemouth nor Poole council responded by the time the Daily Echo went to print.