Ministerial statements on public spending have thrown councils into “turmoil”, leading some to start cutting adult care services in advance of next month’s comprehensive spending review (CSR).
That was the message from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services as it defended councils from a scathing attack from care services minister Paul Burstow on some councils’ decisions to start cutting before the review reports.
As trailed by a number of ministers, the spending review is expected to make cuts of 25% or more to council budgets from 2011-15.
In anticipation, a number of authorities have already announced plans to raise eligibility thresholds or charges for care services, while councils have also had to deal with in-year cuts to budgets in 2010-11, which has hit Supporting People services, among others.
But Burstow told last week’s Liberal Democrat conference: “It is unconscionable to be making the decisions they are when they do not know what the spending review will contain. There is a lot of scaremongering going on at the moment.”
He stressed that cuts announced in the spending review would be “phased over four years”.
However, Adass president Richard Jones said: “Councils have to prepare budgets both to deal with the in-year cuts in grant funding and in preparation for the CSR which is expected to be hugely challenging. They will be responding to their own local circumstances, and to statements made by government ministers over the past few months. Those statements have thrown English local councils into a certain amount of turmoil and, understandably, some will have taken anticipatory action.”
Burstow also attacked councils for the fact that 13% of service users and carers in England were on personal budgets, at the last official count, which he described as a ‘disgrace’, accusing councils of not wanting to yield control to service users.
However, his comments came under fire from blogger and social worker Fighting Monsters, who works in a older people’s mental health team. She said: “What does he think that the lack of roll-out is to do with a nefarious political plot to hold on to the control aspect? No, it’s not. It’s all to do with poorly adapted and poorly administrated systems.”
She added: “I wish Mr Burstow would meet and talk with people who actually DO the job to understand the difficulties, rather than meeting and talking to people who manage people who do the job or people who write the policies or people who audit accounts.”
Councils are on course to hit next April’s target to have 30% of service users on personal budgets, said Jeff Jerome, national director for social care transformation, who has been charged with helping councils implement the personalisation agenda.
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