Crisis talks loom for York social services

FRESH crisis talks are to be held over vital care for York’s most vulnerable people, after warnings that further budget cuts would hit frontline services.

The adult social services department at City of York Council is on course for a £1.1 million overspend this year, as staff struggle to keep up with rising demand.

They currently have hundreds more people needing care than they predicted, or can afford.

Officials have tightened their belt in previous years by focussing on administrative savings and more efficient use of energy and transport, but say that may no longer be possible.

Addressing the council’s health overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, social services director Bill Hodson said: “Any further reductions in expenditure would impact on frontline services.”

Social care services are already said to be severely strained, and at a departmental meeting last week, managers reportedly told staff the resources were not available to give care to all those who needed it.

Tempers flared at the meeting as councillors debated how and when to address the issue and at one point, chairman James Alexander had to plead “everyone shut up” as he tried to maintain order.

After a lengthy and fractious debate, Coun Alexander used his casting vote to settle a three-three split on what to do next, the result being that the committee will ask for the department’s full financial breakdown ahead of a further meeting on January 13.

Coun Alexander said: “This is a serious issue and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

“I am told that there is no more slack in this area and any more savings will affect frontline services and frontline jobs.”

Labour councillors wanted the executive member for adult social services, Coun Jonathan Morley, to say what action he was taking to address the overspend, but Coun Morley, who is not on the committee, said he had attended “in a listening capacity” only.

The overspend is partly due to an increased number of mental health residential and nursing clients, a rise in the number and complexity of learning disabilities cases, a continuing rise in the number of pensioners needing care and a predicted £180,000 increase in income failing to materialise, as the necessary work has been delayed.

The number of older people in York, as nationwide, is rising steeply, with the number of over-65s expected to increase by 31 per cent between 2007 and 2020.

Although the council planned two years ago for the rise, it has been steeper than expected so far.

The council expected the number of community-based care recipients to rise by 18 per cent, from 2,635 to 3,104, but it has risen by 26 per cent to 3,322.

The number of people in residential and nursing care was expected to rise from 653 to 761 – a rise of 16.5 per cent – but has instead risen by 22.1 per cent to 797.