Council survey warns that care outlook is ‘bleaker than bleak’


theweeksubFewer disabled and older people will be able to access social care from their local council over the next two years, according to social services directors across England.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) warned in its new annual survey of a “substantial squeeze” on services for disabled and older people.

Two-fifths of the 145 social services directors who responded suggested that “shifting activity to cheaper settings” would be a “highly important” way of cutting spending this year, with a similar proportion stating that stopping “unnecessary services” would be a priority.

Nearly a third said that reducing the number of people receiving care would be highly important in making savings, along with almost half who suggested increasing moves towards personalisation, 14 per cent who pointed to increasing charges to service-users, and 17 per cent who thought reducing the levels of personal budgets would be highly important.

The survey found that directors were planning to cut another £795 million from their budgets in 2013-14, with 13 per cent of this (£104 million) leading to “direct withdrawal of services”.

Three in 10 of the directors admitted that – as a result of the last two years of cuts – fewer disabled and older people were receiving services.

Social services directors have already cut £1.89 billion in the last two years through what ADASS describes as “more cost effective packages of care, or reduced levels of care” to many disabled or older people.

Although only one in 20 directors thought quality of care was lower than it was before the cuts, one in eight thought this would worsen over the final two years of this parliament. And nearly one in five thought the quality of life of service-users would worsen over the next two years.

Dr Sarah Campbell, who co-authored a report on social care for the We Are Spartacus campaign, said that social services care packages had been a “key factor” in disabled people being able to receive enough support “to leave their home and take an active role in society”.

She added: “As ADASS admits, increasing charges, withdrawing care, changing to cheaper options, means this support will instead for many be reduced back to minimal levels or removed altogether.

“The reduction in quality of life will have considerable physical and mental health repercussions for all concerned, while for some this could literally turn the clock back to a time when disabled people were unable to leave home.”

She said that the funding gap facing social care “urgently needs to be plugged before this happens”.

Richard Currie, an executive member of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said that taking the £800 million in cuts with the planned closure of the Independent Living Fund in 2015, “the future for disabled people with complex support needs living independently looks very bleak”.

He said: “How local authorities are going to be able to fund high-level care packages and meet their legal responsibilities under the UN convention [on disabled people’s rights]is beyond me.”

Sandie Keene, president of ADASS, said: “Gazing into the next two years, without additional investment from that already planned, an already bleak outlook becomes even bleaker.”

Despite the £2.7 billion so far transferred from the NHS to local councils, and efforts to make their departments more efficient, Keene said it was “absolutely clear” that “some of the people we have responsibilities for may be affected by serious reductions in service – with more in the pipeline over the next two years”.

ADASS has so far been unable to clarify exactly what it means by “unnecessary services”, whether “cheaper settings” means residential care instead of independent living, and if personalisation is likely to be cheaper because it will be used as an excuse to cut people’s support packages.

9 May 2013