Councils ‘can’t blame cuts’ for decline in disability provision

Councils cannot blame government cuts for their failure to protect social care services, according to research that found some authorities were maintaining provision despite deep cuts.

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Councils cannot blame government cuts for their failure to protect social care services, according to research that found some authorities were maintaining provision despite deep cuts.

Disabilities charity Scope and think-tank Demos the disability charity has developed a “coping index” to highlight how councils are dealing with the cuts.

It found that the worst performing councils in its index were cutting frontline posts without properly assessing the impact on local residents with disabilities.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services dismissed the report as “sensationalism” based on discredited criteria.

The report criticised councils for using “a guestimate” of their disabled population based on “widely disputed” Office of National Statistics” figures.

The best performing councils, which Scope praised for ensuring frontline support roles were protected in spite of budget cuts, were Knowsley, Peterborough, Oxfordshire, Rochdale and West Berkshire.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes is urging all councils to follow their example and ensure frontline services are protected.

He said: “We know that every council has to make cuts and there is no simple way to protect front-line services. However it’s clear that some councils are taking creative steps to attempt to reduce the negative impact of budget cuts on disabled constituents and its right to commend those councils for taking the initiative to do so.”

Among coping strategies highlighted by these top performers was involving disabled people to design services – promoting inclusive community support rather than formal segregated services for disabled people.

Integrated services for disabled people such as health, housing and leisure is also proving a cost effective way of maintaining a high quality of service, the report found.

Adass president Peter Hay said the criteria used to rank councils was “discredited”.

He said: “The report by Demos/Scope published today illustrates that councils can respond with imagination to improve services for people with disability. Using rather spurious methods it also highlights what it claims are councils that are poorer at it: guess which side of the debate gets most promotion?

“Rather than helping directors work their way through making imaginative responses to the reduction of public spending the report the whole report is ruined by a relentless focus on sensationalism.”

A similar response came from one of the lowest ranked councils, Westminster. “This analysis is fatally flawed in arguing that cash sums are the primary measure of the success of social services,” said cabinet member for adult services and health. “They are not. What you need is money, dedicated staff and services that prolong and enrich lives. That’s what we do in Westminster every day.”

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