This article was updated on 27th October 2015.
Hampshire County Council is set to cut 163 adult social care jobs as part of its plans to reduce a £98 million budget gap anticipated by 2017/18.
Adults’ services are being hit hardest with a savings target of £52 million by 2019, but children’s services will also have to cut £23 million, leading to an anticipated loss of 58 jobs.
The council was unable to say which roles would be affected at this stage but the job cuts in adult social care are due to come from a more efficient ‘operating model’ with increased use of technology and client self-service. Leader of the Conservative-led authority, Roy Perry, said the council would expect to manage the reductions through consultation and voluntary redundancies.
Hampshire’s proposals outlined a number of factors contributing to the cuts, including smaller than expected savings from pooling social care and health budgets under the Better Care Fund programme.
That shortfall of £17.3 million comes on top of a massive increase in the council’s social care wages bill following the introduction of the ‘national living wage’ which is expected to cost the council an extra £5 million a year by 2020.
The mounting cost of agency staff across both adults and children’s social care, leading to predicted overspends of £3.7 million and £1.2 million respectively, has also had an impact. The increase was partly due to permanent staff leaving to join agencies, the proposal said.
In an effort to reduce the spend on agency staff, Hampshire and other councils across the south east have signed a ‘memorandum of co-operation’. It means staff who leave a permanent role face a 12 month restriction on re-employment via an agency.
Councillor Perry said:”Taking all these factors into account, it represents the greatest financial challenge we face yet, coming at the end of a previous eight years of austerity in the public sector.”
Unison branch secretary, Dave Anderson, said workers in adult social care in particular had already been worried about the future of their jobs due to year-on-year cuts. Although the union opposes all job cuts, some would be inevitable, Anderson said. “We will be in dialogue with the council about where the axe will fall.”
Impact on service users
“The wider impact is on service users; the quality and level of service they are used to is being cut back and this will have a significant effect,” he continued.
Liberal Democrat member, Martin Tod, said adult social care was seeing a dramatic increase in referrals from the NHS and demand had not dropped back from a 9% rise at Christmas last year. “I don’t think the [proposed] 14.5% savings, on top of the demands we are seeing, can happen,” Tod told the Council meeting.
In addition to jobs, the council will cut its spending on residential care for people with disabilities and disability enablement by nearly £22 million and reduce spending on the care offer to older people by nearly £8 million.