Adult social care faces £1 billion cuts

A survey of social services directors suggests that adult social care is to see around £1 billion of cuts this year.

Age UK, the campaign charity for the elderly, warns cutting social care for the frail and elderly is counterproductive as the NHS will have to bear the burden of more expensive care.

The survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) was completed by 98% of local authorities. It reveals that around a quarter of the cuts have to come from reduced services despite efforts to find more efficient ways of operating to spare the frontline, the professional body warned.

According to the survey, people assessed to have “moderate” or “low” need will get free help only if they live in 26 of 148 council areas – down from 41 last year.

Ministers allocated an extra £1 billion from Department of Health funding to help meet growing demand but that money was not ring-fenced so does not automatically protect care from the squeeze.

An extra £425 million is needed just to deal with the impact of an ageing population and a “very significant increase in the numbers of people with learning disabilities needing substantial levels of support”, ADASS said.

Plans are in place to absorb around 70% of the £1 billion reduction in efficiency and redesigned services – including integrating with the NHS and better involving independent and voluntary providers.

But Michelle Mitchell, the director of charity Age UK said: “The safety of very vulnerable older people is being put at risk by these cuts. Taking services away from the most frail and disabled older people is not only inhumane, it is also counter-productive, since costs are simply passed to the NHS.

“Every day, thousands of families are already facing agonising decisions about care for their loved ones. These cuts increase the physical burdens on many family carers – and in some cases the rising charges will also result in service users and their families being forced to pay thousands of pounds extra.

“Local authorities are responsible for looking after the most disabled and vulnerable. Some of these cuts could even prove illegal under disability discrimination laws or under the Human Rights Act if the support people receive falls below the level that people need to live with dignity and in safety.”

ADASS said it was trying to co-ordinate action across the country to minimise the impact on services and noted that councils had spared social care some of the drastic cutbacks seen in other areas.

But it added: “Given the scale of the reductions required and the differential impact on councils, there will be some service reductions in some places with just under a quarter of planned savings falling into this category.” In a statement, it said things would only get worse and that a long-term solution was “more urgent that ever.”

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: “The Government is putting an extra £2 billion into supporting social care by 2014 and there is an unprecedented transfer of cash support from the NHS to social care. This funding, together with an ambitious programme of efficiency, should enable local authorities to protect people’s access to services and deliver new approaches to improve their care.”