Social care and health leaders have called for clarity on the transfer of NHS learning disabilities funding to councils, after care services minister Ivan Lewis suggested the process may have to be staged.
In a recent interview with Community Care, Lewis said the April 2009 target to hand councils primary care trusts’ remaining social care funding and commissioning responsibilities for people with learning disabilities may not be fully met. He said the process may have to be staged instead, but could not confirm this.
PCTs spend an estimated £2bn directly on people with learning disabilities, about 85% of which is on social care. The idea was included in the government’s Valuing People Now consultation published last December.
Sarah Pickup, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services resources network, said “the sooner resources are transferred the better”, given the “danger that resources will diminish the longer we wait”.
But she said “sensible staging may be OK” in areas where there is conflict over the level of resources that should be transferred, and a need for “third-party arbitration”.
She called for urgent government guidance on these issues.
A Local Government Association spokesperson said recognition that the cash transfer probably will not be completed by next April was “helpful” because it was more important to get the transfer right. But he called for “clear information about how and when the stages of the process will be achieved”.
Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network, agreed: “If the decision about staging is made within a reasonable time frame, I don’t think PCTs or local authorities will be too upset. What is concerning is there is not a lot of clarity on what staging means and this makes it difficult to make progress.”
The full Valuing People Now strategy is expected in October.