Council proposes to shed over 50 social work posts in cuts plan

Plans mean fewer face-to-face reviews, longer waits and reduced care packages for adults, and risk of increased caseloads for staff

Budget cut
Photo: ducdao/Fotolia

More than 50 social work and care management posts could be lost under cutbacks being considered by Newcastle council.

The proposals would also risk higher caseloads for children’s social workers and mean longer waiting times for assessments, reduced care packages and fewer face-to-face reviews for some adults.

The council says the cuts are the result of it having to find £30 million of savings in the 2016/17 financial year due to a combination of “government spending cuts, new burdens and unfunded cost pressures”.

Adults’ services job cuts

The council is proposing to shed 30 full-time equivalent posts, to save £1.2m in adults’ social care teams responsible for first contact, assessment, review and most safeguarding work. This is equivalent to one-fifth of this workforce of social workers, occupational therapists and social work assistants. The cuts do not affect the council’s learning disability and specialist safeguarding and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards team.

The reductions would be achieved by getting service users to do self-assessments and reviews or, if that is not possible, handling reviews by phone. Face-to-face reviews would only be available for the highest risk cases, while the support planning process would also be “streamlined” for people without direct payments.

Longer waiting times

However, the proposals would also reduce the overall capacity of these teams, meaning they would have to prioritise work on high-risk and complex areas, such as safeguarding and emergency response. As a result, service users not at immediate risk would face longer waiting times for assessments and reviews.

In learning disabilities, the council plans to create a temporary team of social workers to review the needs of the 700 long-term service users with a view to making savings on care packages.

Given the fluctuating needs of this group, the service would shift from funding the top end of a person’s needs to funding the lower end of their needs with the flexibility to increase care levels during weeks when needs were higher than the baseline level.

While this approach is only expected to yield net savings of £40,000 in 2016-17, due to the costs of employing the temporary team, it is expected to generate further savings in future years, when staffing levels reduce again.

Personal budgets cuts 

The levels of personal budgets for some other service users and carers would also be cut in line with the national eligibility thresholds for both groups set by the Care Act 2014.

The council is proposing to save £1.17m through reduced personal budgets for adults receiving personal care and support at home, by reviewing their needs in line with the national eligibility criteria for service users.

In addition, it would seek to meet eligible needs more efficiently, including by reducing the number and length of care visits, and signpost people to alternative services to meet some of their eligible needs.

Risk of legal challenge

The council said that, in comparison with similar councils, it spent more on people’s care and support packages per head.

It added: “We therefore believe that it is reasonable to bring our expenditure more into line with that of other comparable Councils, although we recognise that for many people this will result in a reduction in the level of support that they currently receive and that there will almost certainly be an increase in complaints and probably some legal challenges.”

To mitigate this risk, it would spend £200,000 increasing social work capacity to review needs

For carers, access to personal budgets would be restricted to people providing most or all care to adults with higher-level needs, saving £319,000. This will exclude carers who provide most or all care to adults with more moderate needs, and those providing some care to adults with higher-level needs. The council said this was in line with the Care Act eligibility threshold for carers.

Council tax rise ‘not enough’

The cuts to adult services are being tabled despite Newcastle intending to make use of the government’s decision to allow local authorities to increase council tax by 2% to fund adult social care, on top of a further 2% rise for other services.

“The 2% council tax precept the government say can be used to fund adult social care and in Newcastle this will generate £1.7 million but this is nowhere near enough to address the scale of the financial pressures we face,” said a spokesperson for the council.

Children’s services plans

Job losses are also proposed in children’s social care, which is set to be restructured to focus more on early help in the hope that this will reduce demand. The losses would amount to 28.5 full-time posts, 6% of the total.

Other changes to children’s services including scaling back participation work with families, ending the council’s contribution to the local CAMHS social work service and establishing a regional adoption agency.

The authority said the changes would save it £1.42 million from its £15.5m gross children’s social care budget. However, the council admitted that the changes are likely to make it “very challenging” to maintain reasonable caseloads for its children’s social workers.


“The council has worked hard to protect services for vulnerable people in the face of government cuts and rising demand,” said a spokesperson. “Caring for vulnerable people is by far the biggest part of the council’s budget, and the only way we can achieve the levels of saving we now have to make is by reducing spend in some of these areas.

“Any reduction in social care is regrettable and this may lead to longer waiting times for service users who are at lower risk. The way we deliver social care is changing and we are making much greater use of data analysis and insights to identify children and adults who are most at risk to help target resources to people who need our support most.”

Further cuts

Other budget proposals made by the council include:

The consultation on the plans ends on 31 January and revised proposals will be submitted on 22 February, based on the consultation responses. These will be voted on by the council in March.

More from Community Care

12 Responses to Council proposes to shed over 50 social work posts in cuts plan

  1. MrmoonX January 28, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    charging parents for s17 support and s20 accommodation, have they lost their minds? I bet the person that suggested that isn’t a social worker. The parents and children who needs this support don’t have money to pay for it, thats the point!

  2. Triumphman January 29, 2016 at 10:40 am #

    I had to check that today isnt April 1st

  3. get me out of here January 29, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    Utterly disgraceful but entirely predictable given the scale of the cuts forced on them by a vicious Tory Government. Much of what is proposed above is in my view bordering on illegal. I would predict the Council will have to spend significant money on legal support as their decisions are challenged in court. Make no mistake these attacks on some of the most vulnerable people in society are the political choice of an uncaring Tory Government that simply couldn’t care less. I guess also the Social Workers left will face a restructure of their terms and conditions downwards.

    Sorry to say this but many people mostly well off do not wish to pay fair taxes to fund the care that is clearly necessary in a civilised society. 50 years of social progress is being systematically dismantled in front of our eyes. I would say, however that these vicious cuts will be very visible and may create a stench that even Tories can smell. I hope the Council is rapidly taken to court for this disgraceful package of tory dogma.

  4. LongtimeSW January 29, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    Of course this government and their financial backers will not need these services – though again, will be sniffing round to cherry pick the services that can be ‘outsourced’, (i.e. given to their mates in the City, like the road surfacing company, the airline company and the IT systems company, amongst others) – when are the majority going to wake up and protest?

    Interesting it is Newcastle – not too far from Jarrow I believe?

  5. Tom January 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    ‘Hi I am your Virgin Care Social Worker, I accept Mastercard or Visa. Oh and by the way who does your broadband?’

  6. grayjay January 29, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    looking into this for a project, can someone tell me, do these cuts apply in scotland?

  7. koalabear January 29, 2016 at 10:44 pm #

    Charging parents for s20 or care in general is not a new concept – its just unworkable unless you can deduct from source

  8. Phil Sanderson January 30, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    I am afraid it is not the 1st April now we are seeing the next phase of cuts to core services and this will continue as long as councillors continue to be willing to do whatever the government tells them despite the misery being caused by the cuts. When are these people going to take a stand?

  9. Ron Dobson February 1, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    Who are these high paid people that make the decisions?
    Why do they keep putting a plaster over a deep cut?

    They should be looking for proper ways of saving money.

    How many people does it take to change a light bulb?

    I witness a person changing a street light bulb the other day, one person up on the crane, one person operating the crane, one person overseeing the project, two people directing the traffic, God knows how many others were around risk assessing.

    If this took one hour with an average pay of £12 per hour X 5 = £60 X by the millions of bulbs that need changing, even I can work out that if we reduced this by half then we could all enjoy a service that is really needed.

  10. George Oommen February 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    In all the proposed cuts why hasn’t Councils with large DP&Personal Budget Teams not been cut. These teams costs loads of money to have it in house. These should be outsourced in order to save more money. Many LA are doing it but there many who still have it in house.

  11. Beth February 3, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    It will be unworkable….they will loose key staff and destabilise their whole services. They may as well invite an inadequate Ofsted now!
    I already know that their childrens services have high caseloads of proceedings.
    They will be challenged and they are already aware that what they propose is on the edge of legal!
    Just glad I don’t work there!

  12. Mary February 4, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    No logic at all , surely more Social Workers are needed to protect Children and vulnerable people. I can see another serious case reviews coming very soon.