Social Care Shake-Up Facing Delay

A controversial shake-up of adult social care could now be delayed until voluntary groups are properly geared up to bridge the gap. During a lengthy and often heated debate at last night’s Bradford Council social care improvement committee it was put forward that the threshold for services such as home care should remain the same for the time being. The recommendation will now go before full council for a decision.

The cost-cutting measures would mean those with “moderate” needs would no longer be eligible for help from the Council. And the revised system had been due to begin this week.

But the social care improvement committee called-in the executive’s initial decision to go for the cuts.

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) said: “What this is about is about helping people wash and dress. We need to be making sure there is a sustainable budget in place. This is a national problem, not something peculiar to Bradford.”

A number of people receiving care and representatives from voluntary groups lobbied the meeting. Jean Walker from Senior Power said: “The Council should not be putting its responsibilities onto a fragile if willing voluntary sector.”

Bradford currently meets social care needs classed as “moderate”, “substantial” or “critical”, but with increasing demand is facing an ever-increasing bill. Coupled with this is the fact that most other authorities now refuse to pay for those with “moderate” needs.

It is estimated that the number of people no longer eligible for help would be about 675 – and it would take up to 18 months to reassess their needs before changes can be made.

If the threshold is not raised it is expected to cost the Council £1.7 million a year and the overspend is already predicted to be £1.3 million this year alone.

Interim social services director Kath Tunstall reassured the meeting that people would continue to receive a service until they have been reassessed. And she said those still classed as “moderate” – but who would have higher needs if they received no help – would not be left without a service.

She said there had already been some work with the volunteer groups and this would continue: “We don’t just expect people to rely on volunteers,” she said. “Some of the efficiency savings will be redirected. There does need to be time for things to bed in and take effect.”

Councillor Valerie Binney (Con, Thornton and Allerton) called for reassurances that the voluntary groups would be able to cope in time with the extra call on their services the shake-up would create.

“We are not going to turn people away and give them nothing. The proposal is to fund the voluntary service to support the moderate needs within the community. I need reassurances that there will be no gap,” she said.

The committee referred the issue to the full Council asking it to recommend that the executive delays raising the threshold until the voluntary sector has sufficient capacity. The committee also asked for a progress report in January.