The government has strongly indicated that councils will have to meet mounting demand for adult social care services through increased efficiency savings and not from central funding.
Chancellor Gordon Brown’s pre-budget report for England last week set councils a minimum efficiency savings target of 3 per cent a year for the next comprehensive spending review period of 2008-11 – an increase on the previous annual target of 2.5 per cent.
While the report acknowledged the “significant” implications of the rising older population on future social care provision, social care leaders and peers criticised Brown’s failure to address existing financial pressures.
The latest Association of Directors of Social Services and Local Government Association finance survey showed adult social care overspent by 1.3 per cent in 2005-6.
Sarah Pickup, joint chair of the ADSS resources committee, said Brown’s report suggested that the government saw rising demand on services as an “issue to tackle later”, adding: “There is the immediate issue of financial pressures.”
She warned that the implications of efficiency savings on adult social care could be “severe,” with a further tightening of eligibility criteria. Seventy per cent of local authorities are already only providing services to those in “critical” or “substantial” need.
“The underlying picture is of rising needs and greater demands, and councils are also being faced with pressures on wages in the independent sector and the registration of care workers next year,” she added.
Similar points were made in a House of Lords debate last Thursday, called by LGA chair Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart (see Soundbites).
Anne Williams, vice president of the ADSS, called the prognosis for adult social care funding for the servcoming year “very worrying” and said services could not continue “firefighting” to meet demand without increased funding.
Care services minister Ivan Lewis said Brown’s decision to identify social care as one of the “major challenges” facing the country is “a significant step forward”.
“Since I assumed this role, I’ve said one of my key priorities is to raise the status of social care in government and wider society.
“Now I will be working closely with the Treasury and other stakeholders to define a long-term vision of the kind of services people should expect to receive in the future, supported by sustainable funding.”
From the House of Lords debate on adult social care funding, 7 December:
● Lord Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chair of Local Government Association
“There is recognition of dramatic demographic change, but a failure to act on it.”
● Baroness Barker, Liberal Democrat peer
“Despite the rhetoric of support for early intervention and prevention, spending is in practice going towards the most dependent and frail.”
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