Hampshire take axe to social care budget

THE frail, the elderly and people with learning difficulties are set to bear the brunt after county bosses laid out plans for slashing £21m from its adult social care budget, including shedding a further 165 jobs.

Hampshire social services chiefs propose spending £8.6m less on services for the frail elderly in 2012-13, including nursing and care home budgets.

The cuts were condemned by elderly people’s campaign groups and unions.

Managers are renegotiating contracts to drive down prices for places in private care homes and home help provided by agencies, such as assistance with washing and dressing.

Meanwhile, charges for council-run care homes will increase. For example, the weekly cost of a bed in a residential home for the elderly will rise from £497 to £511, meaning they will be paying £730 more a year.

The local authority is proposing to increase charges for meals on wheels from £3.30 to £3.40 and axe 165 jobs, including 56 in services for adults with learning disabilities.

Council chiefs say the number of compulsory job losses will be reduced by redeployments, freezing vacancies and a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Other saving proposals include spending £400,000 less on conferences, hire of external venues for seminars, staff travel and other “housekeeping” expenses.

The council has cut the £302m adult social care budget by eight per cent for the second year running after the Government reduced its funding by ten per cent in 2012-13.

Last year the council introduced charges for day centres for the elderly for the first time, hiked fees for home care services, cut 374 jobs, closed eight day centres and four group homes for adults with learning disabilities.

In a statement, Conservative council leader Councillor Ken Thornber said the budget would protect social care for the most vulnerable and an extra £11.5m had been set aside to meet the needs of the growing number of elderly and disabled.

Eligibility criteria for adult social care will remain the same, with means-tested services provided to those in “critical” and “substantial” need.

But Tim Cutter, branch secretary for Unison at the county council, said: “The cuts will lead to poorer services and put vulnerable adults at risk. Frontline services have already been affected and these cuts will do further damage.”

John Moreton, deputy director of Age Concern Hampshire, said: “We are very worried about the impact of cuts. Older people are already suffering.

“There is absolutely no doubt about it. We so often hear about the ‘heat or eat’ dilemma because fuel costs have gone up so much while the means of helping older people decrease.

“The 10p increase for meals on wheels may not sound a lot but when you are already on the poverty line it is an awful lot. Ten pence per meal, 70p per week, it soon adds up.”

The council’s investment plans include spending £4m on the first phase of providing more than 400 new or refurbished flats in “extra care housing” schemes with support services on site.

The idea is to help the elderly avoid long stays in expensive residential homes and give them more choice and independence.

Councillor Felicity Hindson, executive member for social care, said: “Despite the budget cuts I know that adult services in Hampshire are still delivering an excellent service that better meets the needs of the community.”