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Reduction in Social Care.


By Jason Tate

Companies that provide care for elderly and infirm people who want to remain in their own homes rather than go into residential facilities are having trouble hiring and retaining staff because of cuts to council budgets.

Cuts from central government mean that councils across England are facing a shortfall of £1.1 billion this year with the pressure falling on care budgets, according to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. The cuts come on top of billions of pounds worth of savings that have been made since the General Election of 2010, making the situation almost “unendurable”, the association claimed.

But government ministers have said that extra money being ploughed into the NHS combined with the new joined-up funding of the health service and social care providers – the Better Care Fund – will make the adult care easier to administrate and plug any gaps. More than 140 heads of adult care at council social service departments took part in the survey. The association’s report said that funding of social care had fallen by £4.6 billion since 2010 – a cut of almost one third. It said that budgets for care of adults – much of which are used to help elderly, infirm and disabled people remain in their own homes rather than move into residential care – will be cut by another £500 million this year. The report summarised the situation: “Taking the growth in numbers of older and disabled people into account, this means that an additional £1.1 billion would be needed to provide the same level of service as last year.”

Councils were using more elaborate means to find savings to cover the shortfall, the report said, including freezing the fees that it pays out to private providers who deliver care services on their behalf. However, it said that many of those private firms are also facing financial difficulties as a result of the cuts.

The situation is particularly acute in Southern England, the report said, with many firms having difficulty hiring the right staff against a backdrop of growing public alarm about the quality of care in residential facilities.

Introducing the report, the association’s president, Ray James, said: “What is at stake is the continuing capacity of adult social care to sustain services to those in greatest need. In virtually all our authorities, the number in need is growing, while the complexity of their needs is increasing.”

A government spokesman criticised the report, saying that it deliberately ignored the plan to plough and extra £10 billion into the new combined NHS and social care service budgets over the next five years. But the association demanded that the Government does everything possible to protect care and support services “which are essential to the most vulnerable members of our community”.

The government claims that simply increasing the amount of funding for care services is not a solution to the adult care crisis. He said that “working innovatively” by combining NHS and social care budgets would both improve the standard of care services and deliver efficiency savings by eliminating the amount of duplicated provision. But Izzi Seccombe, a representative of the Local Government Association, said that the services delivering care to elderly and infirm people were under huge pressure already thanks to cuts to budgets, spiralling demand and ballooning costs.

She added: “We have long warned that investing in the NHS whilst social care budgets are under continual pressure is simply a false economy. It is social care services that support elderly and vulnerable people to maintain their independence, live in their own community and stay out of hospital longer.”

Age UK, Britain’s largest charity for elderly people, said that the plan to reduce social care budgets by another £1 billion was “chilling”. Age UK has called for an immediate injection of new money into the system to prevent a decline in care standards for elderly people. The Care and Support Alliance, a group representing nearly 100 charities, warned that the adult care system is already in an increasingly parlous state. Sue Brown, its vice chair, said the new figures “confirm what we already know - that the care system is in worsening crisis”.

Chronic underfunding meant that support was being rationed every year with hundreds of thousands of elderly people denied care that they were in desperate need of, she added.

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