Give it a few weeks, we thought, and it would all make sense, writes Mark Drinkwater. At least, that’s what my colleagues and I hoped as we listened to the comprehensive spending review announcements last month.
Initially there was relief about the proposed additional £2bn a year for adult social care, although that quickly seemed like a sleight of hand by chancellor George Osborne. Of more concern to my colleagues was the confirmation of fears of cuts of upwards of 25% over the next four years. There is the joint realisation that, in their efforts to cut costs, local authorities will have to make some radical changes.
As our local council’s main (non-school) grant is spent mostly on adult and children’s social care, it seems obvious that this is where the brunt of the cuts will be felt.
There is a shared sense of insecurity about these cuts because social care staff and service users are adversely affected. Both groups seem to have resigned themselves to abandoning their long-held assumptions about how social care is to be delivered. Now, we prepare ourselves for a world where there is a rapidly shrinking public sector, resulting in pared-down services that are diminished in either scale or quality.
All of these changes will be implemented at a time of general insecurity. There are concerns about the relentless changes happening elsewhere – particularly to welfare, housing benefit and reforms of what’s left of the NHS. All of which are bound to be further demands on social care staff.
Although the spending review might have given a slightly clearer picture of the changes at a national level, we remain unclear about the specifics about where the cuts will fall in individual local authorities. There simply is not enough detail to gain a sense of how it will affect our local populations. The true impact of the spending review will only become apparent as local authorities attempt to finalise their budgets early next year.
Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in south London
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This article is published in the 18 November 2010 edition of Community Care under the headline “Cuts leave a shared sense of insecurity”