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Social care funding: 'a bleak outlook is getting bleaker'

Social services will be withdrawn because of a 'substantial' financial squeeze to the directors, a survey has shown.

The survey by the Association of Association of Directors of Adult Social Services shows  despite the NHS transferring resources to local authority-funded social care, directors of adult social services are planning to save another £800 million over the next year.

Overall, in the three years since the beginning of the current austerity programme, some £2.68 billion savings will have been made by adult social care - 20% of net spending.

Social care leaders have been quick to point out that these efficiencies weren't simple 'back-office' adjustments, but were gained by "providing different, more cost effective packages of care, or reduced levels of care, to many elderly or disabled people."

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

"Directors everywhere are well aware of the difficult economic choices the country is facing and having to make.

“Social services departments have gone many an extra mile to make their services more efficient although, as our survey shows, these efficiencies are sometimes nowhere near so `painless' as they sometimes seem.

Keene added that some service users “may be affected by serious reductions in service”, despite efforts to “cushion” them.

'Painless'

More than 10% of savings planned by social service directors (£104 million) will result in direct withdrawal of services, while nearly a fifth of councils thought that a reduction in the levels of personal budgets would be 'highly important'.

The ADASS survey shows that areas likely to be 'highly important' as aids to saving resources in the coming year include:

- Shifting activity to cheaper settings (40%)

- Increased personalisation (47%)

- Better procurement practices (68%)

Close to 15% of directors said there was a chance they would have to increase charges to users, while 65% reckoned that increased prevention and early intervention would provide significant savings opportunities.

However, when asked which areas had been affected by savings to date, 30% of directors said that fewer people can access services, and nearly 50 % said that providers are facing financial difficulties. 45% of councils did not increase fees to care homes at all.

Significantly, 86% thought that the quality of life for services users had not been lowered, while only 5 % thought that the quality of care was lower.

Over the next two years, half (55%) of directors believe the quality of life for users will not worsen: a near-fifth, though, (19 %) think it will.

Equally, 50% of ADASS members think that fewer people will be able to access adult social care services in two years time.

And 50% fear that people will be getting smaller personal budgets. 57% think providers will be facing greater financial difficulty and 42 % anticipate more legal challenges.

Mrs Keene said: "We continue to need a comprehensive reform of our social care and health system - a reform which brings in and adequately acknowledges the implications of funding change, and which successfully brings together the fully-focused and effectively integrated resources of both local authority and NHS services."