Isle of Wight faces care cuts protest despite inspectors’ praise

    A council praised by inspectors this week for its success in supporting older people to live at home is facing a storm of protest over planned cuts of more than £5m a year in services for vulnerable people.

    Though Isle of Wight Council plans to boost overall adults’ services spending by £1.9m to £39.3m in 2010-11, this will require a £5.6m cut in funding, which will in effect shift resources from people with lower-level needs to those in more acute need.

    Under the proposed budget, which has been ratified by the council’s cabinet, Supporting People spending would halve from £5.5m to £2.8m, with supported housing funding focused on building-based services rather than floating support.

    This would have been impossible before April 2009, when the Supporting People grant ceased to be ring-fenced, though experts say other councils are yet to follow suit.

    The council also plans to slash £1m off the adult social care budget after care reviews by removing support from people who do not meet its “substantial needs” threshold – up to 20% of the total.

    Hampshire charity ROCC, which works with vulnerable and disadvantaged people, called on the council to carry out a “considered, professional review”, which looks at both the costs and the value of Supporting People provision.

    ROCC chief executive Nichola Goom said: “We’re not aware of any other council taking similar measures, because they can see the sense in investing in preventive services.”

    Mencap is also campainging against the cuts and accused the council of failing to consult people with learning disabilities adequately.

    “There has been a major failing in the consultation stages of these plans and those who will be most affected have been ignored,” said David Congdon, Mencap’s head of campaigns and policy.

    The budget is due to be finalised at a full council meeting on 24 February, where protests are planned by campaigners, though the council hinted that concessions might be made before then.

    Director of community services Mark Howell accepted that the proposed changes would affect the range of support offered and promised to consider the concerns.

    But he said: “Focusing resources on the most needy has to be the right approach when there is less funding available overall.”

    The controversy follows praise this week for Isle of Wight council for increasing the number of older care users supported at home from 56% to 69% since 2006-7. The acclaim comes in an Audit Commission report on how authorities are preparing for the ageing society.

    The council was also praised in last year’sDepartment of Health report on the use of resources in adult care, with both the Department of Health and the Audit Commission linking the council’s success to its introduction of free domiciliary care for over-80s in 2007.

    Howell added: “With a proposed £2m increase on adult social care, the council will ensure older and vulnerable residents can live independently in their own homes, with an appropriate level of support.

    “As the authority continues to face significant underfunding from central government for its assessed demographic needs, it is inevitable some enhanced services offered over recent years will not be able to continue in their current form, including some floating support services available through Supporting People.”

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