Care services minister Paul Burstow has rejected predictions from a former top civil servant of cuts of up to 25% to council adult social care staff numbers as a result of the government’s austerity drive.
Burstow said he did not recognise “that statistic at all”, which was pulled “out of the air”, and would challenge any local authority on the basis of their sums.
Last week, John Bolton, formerly the Department of Health’s director of strategic finance for social care, warned that social care departments would have to slash jobs and increase service user charges to implement cuts in government funding of up to one-third from 2011-15.
He predicted a “worst-case scenario” of 25% cuts to council adult social care staff numbers over the next three years.
However, Burstow said: “I don’t recognise that statistic at all and I think local authorities that are pulling that statistic out of the air really are to be challenged as to the basis on which they’ve come up with this.
“I would challenge him [Bolton] as well. Even if there is a substantial reduction in the resource available the implication that that automatically leads to a reduction of social workers is not based in any analysis at all.”
Bolton responded: “I and my fellow directors, on the advice of county treasurers, are having to model looking at services with about 25% less money within three to four years.
“This is based on expert advice and on the indications of the chancellor’s statement about future spending decisions. We would be delighted if the DH found a formula which lessened the burden on adult social care.”
Burstow said that smarter use of resources to bring about more integrated health and social care would help guard against frontline job cuts and confirmed that the government planned to increase NHS funding for social care services that prevented hospital redamissions, such as reablement.
He said: “It saves money for social services, it saves money for the NHS and it’s better for the individual and that’s why we want to make sure that the NHS should be funding more of that, which would be good for social care budgets as well.”
This was signalled in the revised NHS operating framework for 2010-11, published last month, which said the government was planning changes to the way hospitals were paid for treatment from 2011-12 so that it covered reablement and post-discharge support. This was confirmed in the health White Paper, published yesterday.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that council budgets could be cut by one-third from 2011 to 2015, based on existing government spending plans. The Treasury has asked a number of government departments, including the Department of Communities and Local Government, which funds councils, to draw up contingency plans to cut spending by 40% over that period.
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