Councils are warning that changes to rules which govern how local authorities safeguard people receiving care and support could have a detrimental impact on the vulnerable and push social care further into crisis by diverting tens of millions of pounds from under-pressure budgets.
A recent Supreme Court judgement could mean thousands more people will need to be assessed under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). New analysis shows that the extra work created could generate an estimated ten-fold increase in additional assessments. Without immediate and urgent Government funding to support the changes, this will cost councils at least £88 million and could lead to longer waiting times for assessments.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) have written to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to warn of the risks and call on the Government to fully fund the judgment to ensure that local authorities are able to implement these changes and maintain the quality of other social care services protecting the most vulnerable.
This is another serious pressure on adult social care budgets, which have already seen reductions of £3.5 billion over the last four years. So far, services have been protected as much as possible, but this is becoming an increasing challenge for councils in the face of such relentless cuts to a system which is already close to breaking point.
The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are a set of rules which are designed to ensure that people who lack mental capacity are cared for in the least restrictive way possible, taking into consideration their safety and wellbeing.
Local authorities support the broadening of criteria for assessments. However, if funding for extra assessments is not resolved, the significant impact on budgets will have an unavoidable and hugely damaging impact on crucial services that protect the most vulnerable people in our society.
The changes also mean that it could be harder for councils to meet their statutory duties in protecting this vulnerable group of people.
LGA Chair Cllr David Sparks said:
“Our main concern will always be making sure that the most vulnerable people in our society are kept safe. We all want to be sure that when our partners, our parents or our families need care, we will be able to access the right level of care at the right time. We completely agree with the principle of having broader, more robust checks, but the Government needs to fund councils properly so that we have the time and money to do this or there will be negative consequences on other social care services which people rely on.
“We all know that we must do better by people who rely on care. In recent years, local government has worked tirelessly to save billions while protecting services for those who need them most, but we already know that the next two years will be make or break for adult social care. This is yet another cost pressure which will increase every year with demographic pressures, which we simply cannot afford.
“Up until now councils have protected our most vulnerable people as far as possible and we will continue to prioritise those most in need. But it’s simple – if we are struggling to afford to run the services we provide now, we will definitely not be able to afford to run additional services in the future.”
ADASS President, David Pearson, said:
“In any changes that are made, we need to make sure that the best interests of the most vulnerable in our society are identified and met.
“This is not all about money, we also need to see urgent changes to the law which make sure that the system is clear for people to use and ensures that all people are treated the same throughout the safeguarding process, whether they are living in residential care homes, hospital settings or in the community.”
– See more at: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10180/6401992/NEWS#sthash.CZyXUcxs.dpuf