Nottinghamshire Council will lower its eligibility criteria from “substantial” to “moderate” in April after saving £13m over the past two years and receiving an improved budget settlement from the government.
The council plans to invest £1.5m in adult social care services, taken out of the government settlement, to meet the needs of an extra 500 people.
Of the £13m saved, £7m was found in adult social care as a result of following the government’s efficiency programme, drawn up by Sir Peter Gershon.
Added to this, the council received a settlement from the government for 2008-10 which was £18m more than expected because the government had removed “damping”, a type of protection used in its funding distribution, from its calculations in the funding formula.
Data from the Commission for Social Care Inspection states that 73% of councils are expected to meet only the needs of people who are judged as “substantial” or “critical” this year, as set out in Fair Access to Care Services guidance.
Paul McKay, service director for older people at Nottinghamshire, said the efficiency savings had not “directly impacted frontline services” but had helped the council work more efficiently so that it could redirect those savings into other adult social care services.
Councillor Alan Rhodes, cabinet member for adult services and health, yesterday morning received the cabinet’s final nod of approval to lower the eligibility criteria threshold.
Rhodes said: “We are bucking the trend in doing this but we are confident that it is sustainable. This is the sort of thing the people in Nottinghamshire want us to do – to give people the choice to live independently at home.”
Councils at critical
A judicial review in December forced the council to move from critical to substantial after it ruled that Harrow’s decision did not take into account disability law and its legal duty to disabled people. A council spokesperson said: “After the judicial review we had to think long and hard about the council’s situation. No decision has yet to be made to go to critical.”
It moved to critical in 2003 and, despite speculation that it might return to substantial, a council spokesperson said: “We have no plans to change this at the present time.”
It moved to “critical” in February 2007 after a consultation involving 6,500 local people. A spokesperson says: “A key reason for the changes is that we don’t receive enough funding from central government for adult social care. This lack of adequate funding, coupled with growing numbers of people seeking help from social services, means that more demands are being made on already stretched social care budgets.”
Corporate director for community services Teresa Bell says: “We’ve been operating at critical since the FACS criteria were introduced as that was what corresponded most closely to how we were operating before.”