Social services budget position worsens

More than half of local authorities are already in a worse
financial position than at the same point last year, according to a
new survey carried out by the Association of Directors of Social
Services and the Local Government Association, writes
Jonathan Pearce

A further 25 per cent anticipate no improvement on last
year’s performance.

The latest research, carried out in July, underlines the
pressures on social services’ budgets highlighted six months
ago in a similar survey that predicted a £205 million
overspend in 2000/1.

The new survey finds that, despite concerted efforts to control
costs, social services departments still overspent last year by
£183 million.

Overall, the survey confirms the pressures of need, demand,
statutory duty, recruitment and retention, market capacity, and
cost increases faced by the social care sector.

It also shows that local authorities are covering the shortfall
by budgeting to spend above the level of standard spending
assessment “to the tune of some £1 billion”.

Brian Parrott, ADSS resources committee chairperson, said the
findings “reinforced the scale of the budgetary pressures” faced by
social services departments, and identified some of the areas of
pressure, including winter pressures, children’s services and
the short-term nature of government funding.

The report acknowledges the considerable impact of the
government’s direct funding of winter pressures or health
authority transfers, but identifies the “worrying knock-on
implications” of funding these services in future years.

Eighty five per cent of authorities saw additional
health-related funding as significant in improving their
performance in dealing with delayed hospital discharges. But over
half the authorities anticipate not being able to maintain or
increase their level of services during 2001/02.

Furthermore, half do not expect their share of the additional
promoting independence grant to cover the cost of additional care
packages entered into over the last winter.

The survey also identifies the particular pressures faced by
children’s services, which accounted for about two-thirds of
last year’s budgetary overspend.

The ADSS and LGA have welcomed the further central government
consultation and analysis being carried out in this area.

“We need to secure improved government funding on a longer term,
planned basis so that authorities can plan for investment in
improved services rather than worry about the fragility of
short-term, one-time injections of money,” said Parrott.

“It is mainstream funding which needs improving if the
improvements which the ADSS and the government wants for services
are to be securely delivered.”

John Ransford, LGA social policy director, added: “Although
resources have clearly grown above inflation in recent years,
there’s a major gap now between resources available and the
amount of demand.”

Ransford said the government could not afford to wait for the
outcome of the next comprehensive spending review in 2003 before

“The health service investment is not going to work unless
there’s investment in community services too,” he warned.




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