Special news report on implications for frontline staff of new government funding package for older people

Social services directors have warned that more frontline staff
will be needed in older people’s services following Alan
Milburn’s announcement of spending priorities,
writes Clare Jerrom.

Explaining how the 6 per cent extra for social care, announced
in April’s budget, will be distributed, the health secretary
revealed a faster assessment process for older people. By the end
of 2004, all assessments will begin within 48 hours of first
contact, and will be completed within a month.

But Glenys Jones, chairperson of the Association of Directors of
Social Services older people’s committee, said the moves
meant it would be inevitable to “expand workforce and care

She added that it was already possible to see the impact fast
track assessments have had on children’s services.
“Increasingly children’s services are divided into two teams:
assessment and long term support,” she said.

Ian Johnston, director of BASW, agreed: “The measures will put
extra pressure on frontline staff.

“The staffing shortage is acute, and any measures that require
additional staff will exacerbate the situation,” he said, warning
that the plans could divert staff from other areas where the needs
are just as crucial.

Owen Davies, Unison’s national officer for social
services, said the plans are only feasible if the level of
investment is at a much greater level than has so far been

“Six per cent does not give local authorities the leeway they
need to meet these very high standards,” he said.

The missing piece of the jigsaw was that there was no
recognition that social care staff are grossly under-paid: “The
idea that they will willingly take up new responsibilities without
extra reward is unrealistic.”

Davies warned the current climate of proposed strikes among
council workers would not help the situation: “Whenever ministers
start promising unrealistic levels of service while workers are
struggling, it annoys and upsets those staff.”

Claiming older people would be the “principal beneficiaries”,
Milburn announced on Tuesday that £3 billion extra would be
spent on older people’s services by 2005-6.

Other plans for older people’s services include expanding
the range of services and offering more support for carers. There
will be double the amount of intensive home care packages by 2005
compared to 1995, and the carers’ grant will be doubled to
£185 million by 2006.

But Jones warned of difficulties about the timescales. Fast
track assessments by 2004 would encourage older people to expect
more services including more home care, rehabilitation packages and
carers support, which might not receive funding until 2005 or

Social workers also get disheartened when they can assess a
person, but do not have the funding to provide the services

More choice is to be offered to older people in the package of
measures. Following an assessment of care needs, all councils will
be obliged to offer direct payments to older people allowing them
to make decisions about the care they require.

Jones warned that in her experience direct payments had not
always been popular with older people: “A lot are living alone, a
lot have considerable frailties to deal with… and they
don’t want the hassle if they are not feeling very well.”

More would have to be done to make it a less complex system, she

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