Ring-fencing removed from social care grants

Services for people with learning disabilities, stroke and HIV/Aids and social care IT schemes are at risk this year after the government announced today...

Services for people with learning disabilities, stroke and HIV/Aids and social care IT schemes are at risk this year after the government announced today that ring-fencing would be removed from the grants funding them.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles today outlined how £1.16bn in local government cuts this year would be distributed and how ring fencing would be removed from £1.7bn in council funding. This is part of the government’s plan to cut £6.2bn from public spending this year to bring down the deficit.

The plans include removing the ring-fence from three revenue grants:

• The learning disability campus closure programme grant (£51m), which helps people move out of NHS campuses into community-based accommodation.

• The £25.5m Aids support grant, which fund social care for people with HIV/Aids.

• The stroke strategy grant (£15m), which funds social care for stroke sufferers, under the stroke strategy.

The main social care revenue grant that will remain ring-fenced this year is the carers grant, worth £256m this year.

Five social care capital grants, worth £74m, will also no longer be ring-fenced, including the £30m grant to fund IT improvements and improved information services to help transform adult care in line with personalisation in 2010-11.

Though care services minister Paul Burstow confirmed this week that no adult social care grant would be cut at a national level, the removal of ring-fencing puts them at risk of local cuts.

National Aids Trust (Nat) chief executive Deborah Jack said she was “very disappointed” about the announcement to remove the ring-fence from the Aids support grant.

She added: “Nat published a report last year highlighting the importance of this funding which provides vital social care support for people living with HIV in England. Nat is seeking an urgent meeting with Eric Pickles to discuss what measures can be put in place to ensure that local authorities continue to invest in social care services to meet the needs of people living with HIV.”

David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap, said: “We like having the ring-fence for obvious reasons because expenditure is targeted and you stand more chance of the money being spent in the way it’s intended.” Monitoring should be carried out to ensure that the programme continues on track, he added.

Pickles said his aim was to reduce the performance management burden on local government by abolishing the comprehensive area assessment and reducing ring-fencing of central government grants.

This would free up resources to concentrate on local priorities and to protect frontline services.

Pickles added there was “significant scope” for local authorities to find efficiencies in the way they delivered services through joint working between councils and between different types of public authorities across local areas.

Pickles said: “The detailed spending decisions outlined today show a clear determination to make the necessary savings whilst minimising the impact on essential frontline services.

“Steps have been taken to limit the impact on local authorities and make savings proportionally. Councils have been given the flexibility they need to determine where they make savings. We are clear that no extra burden must fall on local taxpayers.”

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