Councils in crisis over elderly care

Social services chiefs warned of cuts last week as ministers
confirmed just £60 million would be provided to cover the cost
of raising the threshold at which elderly people have to pay for
residential care.

Local authorities will receive only about £30 million – the
rest will go to the Department of Social Security which funds
people with ‘preserved rights’, who entered residential care before
the community care reforms.

The figure was originally outlined in November’s Budget when
Chancellor Kenneth Clarke revealed the changes allowing elderly
people to keep £16,000, rather than £8,000, of savings
before being charged for residential care.

The move was to assuage criticism over elderly people having to
sell off their homes to pay for care.

But a survey by local authority associations and the Association
of Directors of Social Services of English departments shows the
change will cost them £141 million, leaving a shortfall of
more than £81 million.

As the government figure is for the whole of the UK, the
shortfall could be much greater.

ADSS president Tad Kubisa said: ‘There is a serious danger the
shortfall will have to be paid for by reduced services to elderly
people and their families, some of whom, quite rightly in our
opinion, stand to benefit from the changes.’

And the ADSS points out that many departments have brought their
charging policies for home care into line with those for
residential care, and this could mean an additional shortfall for
local authorities.

Environment Secretary John Gummer last week relaxed the coming
year’s council spending curbs provided social services and
education are given highest priority.

‘Those concerned with care in the community should insist that
their share of the extra available resources comes to them. It may
be necessary to make savings elsewhere and continue to improve
efficiency,’ he told MPs.

Confirming a 3.3 per cent overall rise announced after last
November’s Budget, Gummer said spending on personal social services
should increase by 6.9 per cent. He said new curbs would be
introduced if councils diverted cash meant for social services and

In addition he earmarked a cash-limited £3 million to ease
the pressure on some social services budgets arising from bills for
care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

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