Services to be axed or rationed as adult social care funding is cut back

Older people’s care and services for people with learning difficulties are set to be the biggest losers as councils deal with shortfalls in their adult social care budgets for 2006-7, an exclusive Community Care poll has found.

The financial crisis in the NHS is also having a major impact, with more than half of the 22 authorities responding to our snapshot poll saying they were being forced to pick up costs previously covered by health partners. One said its extra responsibilities could total £6m a year.

More than a third of councils said they faced a shortfall of 6-10 per cent in their adult social care budget for 2006-7, while a third said their deficit would be 1-5 per cent.

The shortage of funding is having several knock-on effects. More than half of those councils facing shortfalls said they were cutting or considering cutting services, and a similar number were looking to raise discretionary charges.

A third said they planned to raise thresholds for services.

Community Care has also learned that Northamptonshire Council,  which has been taken to court over its proposed social care budget cuts, put forward a proposal to save more than £4m by tightening eligibility criteria for community services.

A staff briefing sent out by the council on 13 February said services would be targeted at people in the national categories of “critical” and “greater substantial” need, leaving about 1,500 people with “lesser substantial needs” ineligible.

The council’s budget plans have been stalled pending a judicial review over proposed cuts to 13 learning difficulty and disability services for 2006-7.

A High Court injunction obtained by 70 families that stopped the council from finalising its budget has now been lifted.

The council is allowed to set its budget on the condition it will not move forward with proposals until the application for a judicial review has been considered. The preliminary hearing for the review is on 14 March.

Northamptonshire blamed the cuts on a £9m shortfall in its settlement from government.

Initial findings from Community Care’s parallel poll of children’s services directors suggest budget problems will not be as severe as in adult care.

The Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Social Services are also due to publish a national survey of social care finances.


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