Unison warns of ‘dire consequences’ ahead for social care

The trade union has published an audit of cuts over the last parliament and how they have affected social care

refuge; domestic abuse
32 specialist refuge centres for women have been closed. Photo:Photofusion/REX

Local authorities will struggle to run statutory services like social care and child protection if a proposed £27bn worth of spending cuts are made over the next two years, Unison has warned.

An Austerity Audit, published today by the trade union, highlighted the impact of the cuts made over the past five years. These include a 10% increase in demand for children’s services, a 30% drop in older people receiving home care and a similar percentage of women suffering domestic abuse being turned away from refuges due to lack of space.

‘Unmanageable’

Spending on staffing children’s social care has been cut by £147m, leading to 77% children’s social workers saying their caseloads are unmanageable. This has meant some lower risk cases are not dealt with before they become urgent, the report said.

Almost a third of local authorities have already been forced to shut services for adults with learning disabilities and over 90,000 disabled people lost social care support between 2008 and 2013 , the report added.

With health and education ringfenced, future cuts set out in the most recent coalition Budget would disproportionately affect local authority services, the report made clear.

‘Services disappearing’

Unison general secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “Such is the extent of the spending cuts in local government that many services are close to disappearing. If the Tories were to form the next government, the savage cuts they propose could well mean the end of many services.

“Many local authorities would struggle to run statutory services like social care and child protection.”

The report flagged up concerns that government ministers do not understand the implications of the cuts and so are making “irresponsible” decisions, it said, citing auditor general at the National Audit Office, Sir Amyas Morse.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Morse said: “If you’re going to do radical surgery it would be nice if you knew where the heart was. You’re slightly more likely not to stick a knife in it by mistake.”

Other key points:

  • One in five councils can no longer provide free home visits for pre-school children with additional needs
  • Between 2010 and 2014, 578 Sure Start children’s centres were closed
  • Between 2010 and 2012, 350 youth centres were closed
  • Two out of every five working age disabled people are not having their needs met

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