Directors say spending fails to match pressures in social services

The Association of Directors of Social
Services has hit out at next year’s 6.5 per cent increase in social
services spending announced in the government’s proposed local
government finance settlement last week.

The total government spending on social
services of £11.2bn comprises standard spendingassessments of
£9.2bn – an increase of 5.4 per cent on the current year –
plus ring-fenced or targeted grants of £1.9bn and capital
financing of £41m.

But ADSS resources committee chairperson Liz
Railton said that the funding would do nothing to match the
increasing pressures in social services, including rising care
costs and the growth in the numbers of service users.

“The settlement does not address either the
gap between what authorities are actually spending, or
over-committing, and what government is actually spending,” said
Railton, adding: “Children’s services, in particular, are still
under pressure.”

The Local Government Association, while
welcoming the general increases, has also expressed disappointment
at the fact that no extra money has been allocated for social
services on top of that predicted in the Treasury’s spending review
of last year.

“It is clear that the allocation has not
altered [from the spending review], despite the significant and
highly publicised pressure that services for older people and
children are under,” said LGA chairperson Sir Jeremy Beecham.

Beecham also hit out at the increase in the
use of ring-fenced grants in the settlement, which for local
government as a whole has jumped from 4.5 per cent in 1997 to
around 15 per cent for next year, signalling increased bureaucracy
and reduced local discretion for councils.

For social services the picture is worse, with
ring-fenced funding now making up 17 per cent of total spending.
However, the Department of Health said it would announce in the
“next few weeks” how it plans to differentiate in the conditions
for ring-fenced grants between top performers and poor

“Where we do differentiate, the
best-performing councils will be allocated a targeted grant with no
conditions attached – in other words a devolution of power,” said a
DoH letter to councils last week. “Those performing less well will
continue to receive a ring-fenced grant with conditions attached.
This will act both as a mechanism to ensure we can have some
confidence in improved delivery and as an incentive to improve in
order to win freedoms.”

However, the ADSS is unfazed by ring-fenced
funding. Railton said: “We don’t have a problem with money being
badged for government initiatives. What we do have a problem with
is the core funding for baseline requirements.”

Councils have until early January to respond
to the proposals.

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