Departments fear services cuts as chancellor’s sums become clear

    Social services in England may have to turn to the NHS for extra
    resources or face service cuts, experts have warned,
    writes Lauren Revans and Derren
    Hayes
    .

    As part of last month’s spending review, the chancellor
    announced that funding for social services for each of the next
    three years would rise by an average of 2.7 per cent in real terms
    (news, page 6, 15 July).

    However, this breaks down into an increase of 5.7 per cent for
    2005/6, in line with 2002 government commitments, followed by two
    years averaging at 1.3 per cent per year after inflation.

    In addition, around one sixth of the budget for social services
    comes directly from the Department of Health, and could be subject
    to ring-fencing. A spokesperson for the department said decisions
    on this would be made in November.

    These factors, combined with a 2.5 per cent efficiency drive across
    local government, threats to cap council tax rises, and reductions
    in Supporting People budgets will almost certainly see social
    services departments unable to meet all their commitments.

    Peter Robinson, senior economist at the Institute for Public Policy
    Research think-tank, said the figures amounted to a
    “significant slow down in spending” on social care, and
    would see spending on social services fall as a proportion of gross
    domestic product.

    “Even during the 1990s, when spending overall on the public
    sector was being squeezed, social services spending continued to
    rise as a proportion of GDP,” Robinson said.

    He said it remained to be seen whether primary care trusts and care
    trusts would use their extra resources to help bail out local
    authorities rather than risk failing to shift resources away from
    the acute sector towards primary care and early intervention.

    Anne Williams, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social
    Services resources committee, said the “modest”
    increases in years two and three would intensify the “very
    real pressures” in the system. But she said social services
    could work with PCTs to deliver services more efficiently by joint
    commissioning and pooling budgets.”

    More from Community Care

    Comments are closed.