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Social care services told to expect further cuts



Community care patients in England are being warned to expect cuts to their services and rises in charges following new council spending plans.

Community care patients in England are being warned to expect cuts to their services and rises in charges following new council spending plans.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)  has said £20.8bn was expected to be spent on care this year, a cash rise of 5% since 2015/16.

It follows a £1bn cash injection announced in the Governemtn budget which ministers said would relieve the pressures.

However, ADASS said that £824m of savings were still having to be made.

A Department of Health (DH) spokesperson said ministers were aware changes were needed to ‘put social care on a more secure financial footing’ and that was why a green paper would be set out in the near future.

But ADASS, which represents social care directors, said rising demand meant cuts were inevitable given the current funding levels.

Care providers have been told to expect their fees to be squeezed.

The warning comes after ADASS surveyed 151 council care chiefs about their plans for 2017/18.

Councils could spend £14.2bn of their own money, rising to £20.8bn when the £1bn cash injection, from NHS care projects funding and user fees, is taken into account.

ADASS said care chiefs could make some of the savings through improved efficiency, but added those using services – whether in their own homes or in care homes – should still expect those services to be rationed even more. The council chiefs also predicted user charges would also rise in places. ADASS said the cuts could mean people being denied help, given shorter visits or fewer options for support.

‘Pessimistic’

Nearly three-quarters of directors of adult social services said they were pessimistic about the future of the system.

It comes after years of cuts – since 2010 over £6bn of savings have had to be made.

ADASS president Margaret Wilcox said the system remained on a ‘cliff edge’.

‘The need for a long-term solution has never been more urgent or vital,’ she said.

An extra £2bn is being invested in social care by the Government – £1bn this year and another £1bn spread over the following two years.

On top of this, councils have been given permission to increase council tax to pay for care. Nearly all are doing that this year with seven in 10 councils raising it by the maximum of 3%.

‘Adult social care at tipping point’

Mark Atkinson from disability charity Scope said service cuts have a detrimental impact on the vulnerable as it meant they ‘do not receive the care they need to do the basics in life such as getting washed, dressed and leaving the house’.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers predicted the difficulties in the social care sector would have a knock-on impact on the NHS, which relies on care services to get the frail out of hospital.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, of the Local Government Association (LGA), predicted the situation could get worse. The LGA has forecast a budget shortfall of £2.3bn opening up by 2020 unless the system is reformed.

‘Adult social care is at a tipping point, and unless urgent action is taken we will continue to see more and more of the consequences of underfunding that we have seen in recent years, particularly care providers either handing back contracts to councils or ceasing trading altogether,’ Ms Seccombe said.