Conservative proposals to deliver £12bn in public sector efficiency savings will damage the capacity of councils to safeguard vulnerable people, charities and agencies have warned.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Peter Gershon, an adviser to the Conservatives, said £1bn could be saved in 2010-11 by reducing the use of agency staff and not filling vacant posts.
A further £2bn of savings would be made through cuts in IT spending if the Tories come to power after the general election on 6 May.
However, charities have called on the Tories to stop focusing on “populist, unit-led efficiency savings”.
Helen Donohoe, director of public policy at Action for Children, said: “Finding efficiency savings in children’s services is about early intervention and supporting families earlier so problems don’t spiral out of control.”
She said all political parties needed to move away from short-termisim and realise that real efficiency savings in children’s services might not be able to be made in the space of one parliamentary term.
“It’s the same argument public health has been having over the past 10 to 15 years. We can’t get bogged down in simplistic modelling that’s focused on jobs and IT contracts,” she said.
Recruitment agency Eden Brown, which supplies temporary social workers to local authorities across the UK, said if councils had to cut their use of agency social workers they would struggle to fulfil statutory duties to safeguard vulnerable adults and children.
Simon Ray, associate director, said: “The next government should concentrate instead on raising morale and encourage people to choose social work and social care as a permanent career choice.”
James Rook, managing director of specialist social care agency Sanctuary Personnel, said more spending, not less, was needed to strengthen social care services.
“At a time when there is more pressure than ever before on frontline services, it is clear that in order to save the public purse and to protect children, there needs to be more money invested into frontline services and support provided for children and families at the earliest possible stage.”
Phillip Noyes, director of strategy and development at the NSPCC said they were concerned that Tory plans for efficiency savings would hit frontline child protection.
“That’s why we have launched our ‘I Stand for Children’ campaign which aims to ensure the next government introduces vital child protection reforms and secures essential funding and resources for this area.”