Councils across England are taking emergency measures to balance their adult care budgets, including tightening eligibility criteria and increasing charges, because of the NHS financial crisis and insufficient government funding.
With ever-increasing demand due to an ageing population and the increasing longevity of people with learning difficulties, and authorities under pressure to limit council tax rises to below 5 per cent, service cuts are taking place across the country.
Anne Williams, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services resources committee, said: “There’s widespread discussion across the country going on about charging people and raising thresholds [for services].”
Tim Hind, policy adviser to the Local Government Association, said new policies, such as last year’s National Service Framework on Long-term Conditions, were loading extra costs onto authorities.
He said: “All these things are stacking up expectations and requirements on authorities with no additional funding.”
Suffolk Council, which must find £14m in savings in next year’s budget, is proposing to cut its number of care packages, slash preventive services, make management redundancies, close day centres and cut funding to voluntary organisations.
Hampshire Council, which needs to find more than £11m over the next two years, plans to close five residential homes and almost half of its day care capacity, increase charges for service users and tighten eligibility criteria.
Many councils with social services responsibilities received inflationary or below-inflation government grant increases, while there is evidence of authorities taking on responsibilities abandoned by deficit-hit primary care trusts.
Wiltshire Council’s director of adult and community services, Ray Jones, said the knock-on effects of deficits had left the authority facing a £3.5m overspend this year, which had necessitated service cuts, increases in charges and limits on recruitment.
Two of the county’s three PCTs, Kennet and North Wiltshire, and West Wiltshire, are among 18 bodies to face Department of Health “turnaround teams” because of their parlous financial state, the DH announced last week.