Welsh councils fear a new £50 cap on weekly community care charges will increase costs and demand for services, according to a new report.
The cap on charges for non-residential care, introduced last month, had created a “genuine anxiety” among councils that it will mean “additional pressure on budgets” that are already severely stretched, found the study, published by the Social Services Improvement Agency (SSIA).
Better Support at Lower Cost, by John Bolton, the former social care finance chief at the Department of Health, represents the findings of a year-long programme on achieving greater efficiencies in older people’s services in Wales.
Bolton, who wrote an influential paper in 2009 on how English councils can improve value for money in adult social care, warned that the £50 cap restricted Welsh councils’ ability to raise more money towards the costs of local services.
It also risked increasing demand for services, particularly from older people who were previously self-funders, and creating a perverse incentive for authorities to place more people in residential care, as they could then recoup more money in charges.
“The implication of this policy is that in Wales councils will need to be even more efficient than their English counterparts,” Bolton concluded.
The report called on Welsh councils to adopt strategies to reduce demand for residential and domiciliary care by providing people with better information and advice, and preventive support.
The study revealed that all councils were reshaping their services for older people with a shift towards more reablement and a general reduction in the numbers of older people being cared for in residential services.
However the rate of progress was mixed, and the report found that working relationships between councils and the NHS over the development and implementation of reablement services varied.
The report said that genuine partnerships with health, and the third and private sectors would be important in maximising efficiency and maintains independence for users.
SSIA said it would be taking forward work to improve efficiency in older people’s care in two pilots from 2011-12.
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