Most councils ‘expect social care service cuts’

More than half of local authorities in England fear budget pressures will affect care services that help elderly people and adults with disabilities to live at home, according to a new survey.

The poll found 86 out of 87 councils were currently investing in services to help people live independently for longer.

But 46 out of 87 were concerned about funding these intervention services in the future, the research showed.

A total of 58% of all of the councils in England replied to the questionnaire commissioned by BBC Local Radio for “Living Longer”, a special week of local programming launched yesterday.

More than one in three councils said they will not spend more money in real terms on services for older people next year, despite George Osborne promising an extra £2bn for social care by 2014-15.

Paul Burstow, minister for care services, claimed the extra money would mean no council had to cut social care services.

He said: “We are investing in re-ablement services that get people back on their feet after a stay in hospital.

“By using telecare and developing preventative services, councils can cut their costs, reduce pressure on the NHS and improve the quality of life of their residents.”

But the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) warned care services faced a “tough” future.

Richard Jones, president of Adass, said: “Inevitably people will have to pay more towards the care they receive; the level of fees councils pay for services will be reviewed and in some places eligibility criteria – which define who is able to get a service – might have to be changed.

“Until the full impact is known in December of the final amount of resource that will be available to each council, it will be difficult to calculate just how tough some of the decisions will have to be.”

Of the 87 councils surveyed, 11 said they would probably change the eligibility criteria for adult social care services while 34 were not sure.

The Department of Health has also set local authorities the target of offering 30% of eligible people their own social care budgets by April 2011. These budgets allow users to choose how their services are provided.