Cuts will damage social care service levels: finance expert

Social care departments will struggle to maintain "decent levels of services" without extra government funding, a finance expert has warned.

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Social care departments will struggle to maintain “decent levels of services” without extra government funding, a finance expert has warned.

Richard Harbord, chair of the influential adult social care panel of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, yesterday called for “increased financial support” for adults and children’s services.

His intervention is significant as it shows how far council finance chiefs reject ministers’ case that local authorities can maintain services through efficiency savings and service transformation, in the face of substantial funding cuts.

“There’s no doubt the services are underfunded so the choice of taking more out will be very difficult to manage if not practically impossible,” he told Community Care at Cipfa’s annual social care finance conference.

Councils have made £1bn in cuts to adult social care this year, and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services believes even more will be taken out of budgets in 2012-13.

Harbord said that authorities could only manage to maintain statutory care services by cutting back more from non-statutory areas of children’s and adults’ services.

Harbord, also chief executive of Boston Council in Lincolnshire, said innovative councils would have to look at alternative models of delivery, such as outsourcing adult services to local authority trading companies, as has happened in areas including Essex.

However, he said this would not help solve the shortfall for the next financial year.

He is the latest finance expert to call for additional funding for social care, joining economist Andrew Dilnot, who published his report on long-term care funding earlier this month.

Dilnot said that the current system needed an immediate funding injection – estimated by some at £2bn a year – before the implementation of his long-term reform proposals, which would involve capping individuals’ care costs at £35,000.

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