AN URGENT PLEA for `sustained and substantial’ additional funds to be made available for the care and protection of older and vulnerable people is made today by directors of adult social services. This, in face of a £1.1 billion budget cut expected in 2015/2016 and `almost unendurable’ cutbacks in the past four years.
In some cases this might mean fewer hours of vital home care or fewer people receiving funding for residential care. According to ADASS president Ray James, “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.”
He also warned that some councils have made many of their savings in the past by freezing fees paid to providers – in 2016 alone some £32m of `efficiencies’ will be found through this route, although most have sought some increases to match inflation in 2015/16.
He said: “the ongoing clamp-down on fees to providers is beginning to have an inevitable clamp-down on staff skills, staff training, staff remuneration and staff satisfaction. Yet a well-paid, properly valued workforce is the rock on which the safety, care and security of so many of our vulnerable population is based. Without the one, it is becoming increasingly obvious that you cannot have the other.
“In the context of staff turnover, staff quality, the national minimum wage, and the calculated need for a million more care workers in the future, maintaining a sustainable workforce in a sustainable provider market is now a key concern. Yet 56 per cent of ADASS chief officer members agree that providers are facing financial difficulties now.”
The survey also points to what Mr James described as the `folly’ of expanding NHS budgets at the same time as social care budgets are being reduced “despite the widely-acknowledged significance of the link between the two.
“Health funding has rightly been increased from £97.5 billion in 2010-11 to £116.4 billion in 2015-16, an increase of 19.3%., while over the same period, social care funding has decreased from £14.9 billion to £13.3 billion, a reduction of 10.7 per cent – and more in real terms when demography is taken into account.
“Protecting the NHS is an important policy objective. But the health service itself agrees that an important part of that equation is the simultaneous protection, and enhancement, of social care budgets.”*
He praised local councillors for having prioritised adult social care in face of the ongoing and significant reductions to their overall budgets. “Our survey shows that this year, as last, 35 per cent of council budgets relate to adult social care, and adult social care is 30 per cent of total council savings. But,” he warned, “the ability of councils to do this in the future inevitably becomes more and more difficult.”
He concluded: “There is still time for central government to recognise the jeopardy so many of our citizens are being placed in by the continuing reductions being made to local government spending. 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.”
Other points to emerge from the survey include:
* 50% directors report that they believe fewer people will get access to services, and 58% directors believe personal budgets will get smaller over the next 2 years. Directors think that there will be more legal challenges and 17% think that quality of care will worsen also over this period.
* While councils are planning to spend £880m on prevention in 2015/16, this represents only 6.6% of the budget and has fallen by 6% in cash terms since 2014/15.