Adult social services ‘can only take 3% cuts’

The maximum savings that council adult services departments are capable of delivering is 3% a year by 2015, according to a Spending Review submission to the Treasury.

The report to ministers from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said that savings on the scale of 25-40% were “simply not feasible” without a change in statutory responsibilities, which would have “significant adverse effects on very vulnerable people”.

It argues that if adult social services departments were hit with 25% cuts over the review period, demographic pressures would amplify the effects to 40%, the equivalent of £5.8bn in savings.

The 32-page submission said that directors’ 3% target would save the government £1.7bn per year by 2014-15, but would require the “ruthless” pursuit of local savings strategies, including hiking income from charging.

“This may well include increasing the (Fair Access to Care Services) eligibility criteria to ‘critical’ only as well as relying even more on voluntary effort and the contribution of informal carers,” it said.

“It  will mean ensuring that there is very limited use of expensive care packages especially in residential nursing care, but also at home.

“It will have an adverse impact on providers who already believe that they are being squeezed by aggressive local authority purchasing.”

The submission said a recent efficiency savings workshop with the Department of Health and LG Improvement and Development  had estimated that only £500-800m could be generated from efficiency savings alone.

A table of unit costs showed that expenditure on nursing care for people with physical disabilities had seen an 18% increase over the past three years,  while residential care for adults with learning difficulties had increased by 16% over the same period.

Unit costs for older people’s residential care and older people’s home care had risen by 12% over the past three years.

Budgets for people with learning disabilities are a particular concern for councils as the number of adults who need support is increasing at the same time that their care needs are growing.

The submission said that adult services departments were coming under pressure not only from people moving from children’s services to adults’ social services, but also from those people whose care arrangements had broken down, perhaps because their elderly parents could no-longer look after them.

Chancellor George Osbourne is due to announce the details of the Spending Review on 20 October.