Some councils ‘have found ways to protect disabled people from cuts’


Some local authorities are doing far better than others in protecting disabled people from the impact of budget cuts, according to a new report.

Coping With The Cuts – written by the thinktank Demos for the disability charity Scope – ranks councils in England and Wales in order of how well they are dealing with the local government funding crisis.

It says that some councils that have faced drastically reduced budgets have still managed to protect their services for disabled people, while others that have actually seen increased budgets have coped “badly”.

Those with the best “coping” figures had introduced “creative” steps, such as involving disabled people in the decision-making process; committing to personalisation; promoting community-based support rather than segregated services; and integrating care, health, housing and leisure services.

Some of the councils that coped best were in the most deprived areas, with “coping scores” mixed across regions, rural and urban areas, and levels of deprivation.

The research also shows that some councils with lower “coping” scores were “using crude calculations” to identify how many disabled people lived in their area, such as a “guesstimate” based on “widely disputed” figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said the report “illustrates that councils can respond with imagination to improve services for people with disability”, but also claimed that the report ranks councils using “discredited” criteria.

Peter Hay, president of ADASS, said: “There is nothing new in the claim that care is a broken sector – yet somehow despite all the challenges there are places that are finding unique ways of making a new offer.”

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “We know that every council has to make cuts and there is no simple way to protect frontline services.

“However, it’s clear that some councils are taking creative steps to attempt to reduce the negative impact of budget cuts on disabled constituents and it is right to commend those councils for taking the initiative to do so.”

Meanwhile, a new report by the National Audit Office (NAO) says the Department of Health (DH) must do more to ensure that the care sector provides a “genuine choice of services” to disabled people and other service-users who use personal budgets.

The NAO report also says that most people who use a personal budget report “improved wellbeing”, although a small minority feel worse off.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “As the population ages and more pressure is put on social care, [DH] must ensure that its oversight of the care market is robust, that people have access to the information and support that they need and that it has arrangements in place in the event of large providers getting into financial difficulty.”

By March 2011, 340,000 people had a personal budget, allowing them to choose how their care needs were met. The government wants all eligible service-users to have a personal budget by April 2013.

15 September 2011