Care Services Crippled By Cash Crisis

HUNDREDS of people requiring care are being left out in the cold because social services resources will not stretch to meet their needs – despite a budget boost of £9.3m

Crisis-hit Wirral social services department is being forced to deny care to people with moderate and low needs because of cash restraints, it has been disclosed.

Wirral social services chief Cllr Pat Williams said:
“People are being assessed from the critical and substantial bandings, but not from moderate and low bandings because we don’t have the funding.”

The revelation comes as a shock top- level report has identified a gaping £1.7 billion “black hole” in social care budgets across the country.

Wirral Tory group leader Cllr Jeff Green said:
“I am astonished Wirral is not fulfilling its obligations and to find the council is not carrying out its duties. Unless the Government is prepared to finance social services to the required level, it would appear that each year we will lurch from financial crisis to financial crisis. People will find it harder and harder to get the care they need.”

Cllr Green said the Tory group had proposed that the social services budget should be boosted by £7.8m, arguing that the Government was not living up to its responsibilities regarding proper funding of social care. He said there was an overspend in the social services budget of £5.3m last year, followed by a further overspend of £3.6m.

Cllr Williams, chairman of Wirral social care and health select committee said: “We have significant need in this area. Once a person is assessed as being in need, that need must be met. I couldn’t sleep if I felt we were not fulfilling our obligations and accepting our responsibilities.”

The pressures of an ageing population and a higher than average number of adults with special care needs resulted in a budget deficit of £6m social services building up in Wirral. This was trimmed to £4 and a £9.3m injection of funding from the recently-set council budget, helped to steady the situation.

Cllr Williams added: “The extra £9m approved by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors was put in to recognise increasing needs.

“In addition to the needs of aged and those with special care needs more people are receiving social care rather than care in hospitals and local councils are bearing the extra costs.Great efforts have been made to increase efficiency and keep costs down, but the number of people in need of care is increasing by the day. We want to fulfil our obligations to those in need of care and support and we are not prepared to put people at risk by altering our eligibility criteria. We have made a significant increase in the social services budget this year to cope with the identified pressures, but it’s high time a fair and sustainable system of funding was introduced.”

Wirral’s social services cash catastrophe has been reflected across England as the NHS funding crisis, Government under-funding and demographic changes have created a £1.76bn deficit in social care budgets. The shock details are revealed in a joint report by the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Social Services, the Society of Municipal Treasurers and the Society of County Treasurers.

Around 120 directors of social services across the country responded to a questionnaire on the issue.

By 2007 it is forecast there will be more people over the age of 65 than under 16 for the first time. In many areas this is already the case.

This year’s local government finance settlement gave half of councils with social responsibilities a 2% increase well below the rate of inflation.