In 2017/18, the national average unit cost expenditure on adult social care was £352 per head. This reduction of the average unit costs since 2011/12, when the average expenditure per head amounted to £362, is a trend that is notable across and within the regions.

  • Since 2011/12, unit cost expenditure per head on adult social care has decreased most significantly in London, from £378 to £346 in 2017/18. 
  • The South West and East Midlands are the only regions to experience increasing expenditure per head since 2011/12.
  • Indeed, in 2017/18, unit cost expenditure in the South West was 11% higher than the national average, with £391 per capita.

  • 18% of Local Authorities within the South West experienced a reduction in spend per head since 2011/12. 
  • In comparison, 59% of Local Authorities nationwide experienced a reduction in spend per head over the same time period.

As local authorities are faced with the continuous challenge of managing the provision of demand led services under austerity, Councils look at comparative spend to discover how other authorities are managing ever tighter budgets. But some of the regional variations in unit cost expenditure will be driven by context. 

Factors such as workforce availability, rurality, demographics and concentrations of provision by the market all have a bearing on how much Councils have to spend per head. Unfortunately, these contextual factors don’t align well with the system of funding for local government, which is now increasingly dependent on ability to raise local taxes. Very often this is why Councils with a low tax base face much more Adult Social Care pressure than others. 

Increasingly, we believe that this issue of context versus income potential will need to be dealt with at a national or regional level to avoid inequalities in the level and standard of care people can expect from different councils.

In addition to looking at the change in unit cost expenditure on adult social service across the regions, we have also analysed the provision of long-term care service to elderly (65+) , a significant driver of costs within social care. We discovered a large variation in the number of commissioned services to those 65+ between but also within regions, with the East Midlands commissioning almost twice the amount of long-term services for the elderly (408) than the South West (227). Have a read HERE about our findings on long-term care services for elderly and how your commissioned services are comparing to others.  

To find out more about our research and data analysis tools or to pose a research question, speak to us at

Adult Social Care Insights  is the online analysis tool for local authorities to better understand their Adult Social Care services and system performance, enabling the intelligible visualisation of usually disparate and complex datasets. The platform looks at the services using 5 lenses: Council context, Demand, Services provided, Costs and Outcomes - allowing councils to assess their performance now and benchmark it against peers in ways that haven't been possible before. Reach out to us at  if you want to be one of the first ones to see it.