£1bn further cuts to social care will hit tens of thousands, say experts

Original post from The Guardian


Council care bosses urge ‘sustained and substantial’ extra funds to help older and disabled people in England

Despite rising demand driven by an ageing population, fewer people will qualify for state-funded care. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA
Despite rising demand driven by an ageing population, fewer people will qualify for state-funded care. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

More than £1bn will be cut from social care services for older and disabled people in England over the next year, leaving tens of thousands facing reduced help with basic tasks such as washing, dressing and eating, council care bosses have said.

Despite rising demand driven by an ageing population, fewer people will qualify for state-funded care while those who continue to receive a service may have to accept lower levels of support and a worse quality of life, they said in a report.

The quality and reliability of local services would also suffer as a consequence of turmoil in the private care sector caused partly by an ongoing council freeze on fees, undermining attempts to maintain a “caring, compassionate and trained workforce”.

Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services(Adass), which produced the report, called on ministers to reverse five years of cuts and invest “sustained and substantial” extra funds to care for and protect older people.

“Short-changing social care is short-sighted and short-term. It must also be short-lived if we are going to avoid further damage to the lives of older and vulnerable people who often will have no one else but social care to turn to. It is vitally important these care and support services are protected,” he said.

He also warned that the cuts to social care would increase pressure on the NHS, a view shared by health service leaders, who earlier this week said ministers had to guarantee spending on social care as well as hospitals if the NHS was to survive five more years of austerity.

A government spokesman downplayed the report, which he said ignored ministerial commitments to invest extra resources into social care through theBetter Care fund, which focuses on innovative ways of helping people live independently. “Increasing budgets isn’t the only solution. By working innovatively and joining up health and social care we can improve care – and also save money.”

But James accused the government of spin and double-counting, and called for a “transparent debate” on the pressures facing adult social care departments.

More than half of directors surveyed by Adass were worried that some local care provider markets, which have been racked by scandals over low pay, and high staff turnover, could collapse under the financial strain of the cuts.

To date councils have cut £4.6bn from adult social care budgets since 2009-10, equivalent to almost a third of net real terms spend, says Adass. They are now running out of “efficiencies” and are set to make £500m of service reductions over the next 12 months at a time when they face £600m in extra service demand and price inflation – equivalent to an overall cut in funding of £1.1bn.

Around 400,000 fewer people received social care support over the past five years, a trend that social care directors say they expect to continue. Councils are forecasting a £4.3bn black hole in social care funding in England by 2020.

Responding to the Adass report, Clare Pelham, chief executive of the Leonard Cheshire Disability charity, said: “The only choices that the councils at the frontline have to offer are less care or care for fewer people. Sometimes both.

“Let’s not hide from the reality of what this means. This means disabled ex-soldiers coping all day with one ‘flying’ homecare visit and a thermos. This means people who need help to go to the bathroom, falling and going to hospital sometimes several times a week. And now it might get worse.”

Richard Humphries, director of policy at the King’s Fund thinktank, said: “There is no hiding the fact that, despite the best efforts of local authorities, a sixth consecutive year of budget cuts will mean further reductions in services and fewer people receiving support.

“It defies demography that councils will spend £1bn less this year on essential services that more of us will need.

“Social care is now at a crossroads. It is at risk of becoming a residual service, available only to those with the lowest incomes and highest needs, leaving thousands of people and their families struggling to meet the costs of care.”

Izzie Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “The necessity for further budget savings worth £1.1bn combined with other pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand and escalating costs mean that despite councils’ best efforts they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide. This cannot continue.”

The Adass survey was completed during March and April 2015. Of 151 councils surveyed, 147 responded.  …………….’

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