The Simon Heng Column – A service user’s view of social care

I was reading the discussion forum for physical disabilities in the online version of Community Care many of the recent posts were about the effects that cuts in front-line services were having on individual lives, particularly in Wiltshire.

Among the stories of physically disabled people’s lives increasingly limited by reduced care packages, and college courses for many people with learning difficulties effectively vanishing, two comments struck me.

One person wrote: “I believe this is the thin end of the wedge and what one council does today to save money others in financial straits will follow.” She also wrote: “…the person taking over from Ray Jones as director of adult and community services had a significant pay rise, we were told in order to offset the difficult decisions he will be making over the next months.”

So, money that could have been spent on front-line services – however small a proportion of the budget – might be going to increase the salary of the director, perhaps because the decisions he needs to make are difficult ones.

Am I alone in thinking that this sends out the wrong message – someone gets paid more if they are willing to reduce other people’s standards of living?

It reminded me of the comment that I overheard, from a service user whose care package was being reduced, to his social worker: “That’s easy for you to say – it isn’t your life that’s being affected.”

But what if senior managers’ lives were directly affected by their decisions? Nationwide, would social care directors be less willing to make cuts?

I propose a new ruling: for every 1 per cent cut in front-line services, there is a corresponding 1 per cent cut in senior managers’ salary. Maybe a similar pay cut for everyone working for the department.

For every stick there should be a carrot: central government reckons that there are still efficiency savings to be made in local authorities, so for every 1 per cent in efficiency savings, salaries should rise by 1 per cent. After all, they will be working harder.

Any takers?

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